Tag Archives: Cooking

Purging the files

Last weekend, I purged my recipe file. I have this big green file folder that I use to store recipes. For the past 5 years or so (okay, maybe 10), I have been collecting recipes that looked good. And stuffing them into the file folder (organized into categories, of course. Sort of.) And I thought about it recently and realized that if I were hit by a bus tomorrow, Emma would go through that file and instead of thinking fondly about the great family dinners we had, she would think, “Look at all these recipes that don’t even sound familiar.” So I decided to purge. This requires getting honest with yourself about what you’re never going to do. Kind of like going through your closet and getting red of anything you haven’t worn in a year. And here’s what I purged:

1. Any recipe for sorbet, ice cream, granita, sherbet, popsicles, or anything found in the frozen treats section. Easier to buy it. And probably better.

2. Anything that requires pounding something with a mallet.

3. Crock pot recipes for anything that is not intended to be served mushy. Because it always ends up mushy.

4. Anything that contains both chocolate and noodles.

5. Anything that has more than 10 ingredients. (Unless a) it’s for a special occasion and b) I’ve already made it so I know that it’s worth it.)

6. Anything that contains both fruit and meat. (I make an exception for apples and pork. Yum.)

7. Anything that has a jello-like consistency and isn’t jello. Like aspic.

8. Cold soup. (I know that some people like them. I don’t.)

9. 10 recipes for variations on “chicken in peanut sauce”. Because I have one that we all love and who needs more than one way to cook chicken in peanut sauce? Ditto for chicken enchiladas.

10. Candy. There are lots of professional candy makers who can make it better than I can. And that whole candy thermometer thing is a pain.

I got rid of about half of my recipes. In all honesty, I probably could have gotten rid of 3/4. But it’s a start.


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Motherhood and apple pie


I’ve always wanted to be able to make apple pie like my sister Carolyn.  Her pie is so good, it melts in your mouth.  (My dad loved her pie, and in true Pennsylvania Dutch fashion, ate it in a bowl with milk on top, which, if you’ve never tried it, is really good.)

Of course, the hard part in making pie is in the dough.  I have no trouble mixing the ingredients, but the rolling was always a mess. I could never figure out how to roll the dough so that it didn’t stick to the rolling pin. Or the table.  It was always so much more trouble than it was worth.

Until I found a way to cheat.  Now I roll the dough between two sheets of parchment paper until it’s as thin as I want. Then I peel off the top sheet of parchment, and flip the dough over onto the pie plate, and peel off the other layer of parchment. It’s so easy, and so not messy.  I still feel a bit guilty about it, because I feel like I should be able to do it the old fashioned way.  But not guilty enough to figure out how to do it the hard way.

Freezable pie dough (makes 5 crusts)

2 1/2 cups vegetable shortening

5 cups flour

2 tsp. salt

1 egg (slightly beaten in same 8 oz. cup shortening was measured in)

2 tsp. vinegar

Combine flour, salt, shortening. Chop fine. Add vinegar to cup containing beaten egg. Fill cup (8 oz.) with cold water.  Add all at once to flour mixture. Combine with hands.  Separate into 5 dough balls.  Freeze in separate plastic bags.

To roll pie dough, place dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper lightly dusted with flour, and roll until thin.  Remove top sheet of parchment paper and flip dough over into 9-inch pie pan.

Carolyn’s Apple Pie

5-7 tart apples (I prefer McIntosh)

3/4 to 1 cup sugar

2 Tbsp. enriched flour

dash salt

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. nutmeg

dough for 2 crusts (or 2 refrigerated pie crusts, if you don’t want to make your own)

2 Tbsp. butter

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Peel apples and slice thin. Mix sugar, flour, salt, spices; add to apples.  Fill 9-inch pastry-lined pie pan. Dot with butter. Adjust top crust and make slits with knife.   Bake 50 minutes at 400 degrees.

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A crock of *******

I’ll be honest.  I have a love/hate relationship with my crock pot.  I love knowing that dinner will be ready when I get home, and I don’t have to do anything.  But I struggle to find recipes that my family likes.  They don’t like roasts (Tim calls them “big hunks of meat”), and so many things I’ve tried come out mushy.  So here are some roast/big hunk of meat recipes that I love, and for which I’ve gotten compliments from other people, even though Tim and Emma don’t love them…and some recipes for things that are meant to be mushy, so they’re fine in the crock pot. 

1. chicken-chili

2. taco-soup

3. slow-cooker-barbecued-ribs

4. Turkey Chili http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Simple-Turkey-Chili/Detail.aspx

5. Pot roast pot-roast

6. Jambalaya jambalaya

7. Beef stew beef-stew

8. Chicken and dumplings http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Slow-Cooker-Chicken-and-Dumplings/Detail.aspx

9. Ham, beans and potatoes. This one’s easy (and really tasty. My mom always used to make it.) Put a big hunk of ham in the crock pot.  Cut 2 potatoes into quarters and add to the crock pot. Drain a can of green beans and add the beans to the cooker.  Add some wedges of green cabbage. Add some water.  Cook on low for 8 hours. Yum…just like Mom used to make.

10. And for something completely different, my friend and colleague, Liz, told me about crock pot cake. Haven’t tried it yet, but Liz recommends it http://www.realsimple.com/realsimple/content/0,21770,1087160,00.html

Please feel free to add other recipes you like in the comments section.

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Recipe for a fun weekend

Here is a list of foods that got us through our girls’ weekend in PA:

1. Peanut butter Oreos

2. Pink ribbon bagels from Panera Bread: http://sheknows.com/blogs/alytude/2008/10/05/pink-and-berry-licious/

3. Crab dip:

2 8 oz. cream cheese (softened)

½ pint sour cream

3-4 Tbsp. mayonnaise

½ tsp. Old Bay seasoning

3 shakes garlic powder

2-3 shakes Worcestershire sauce

Juice of ½ lemon

½ tsp. dry mustard

Mix above with 1 lb. of crabmeat and ½ cup grates, sharp cheddar cheese. Sprinkle a little cheddar cheese on top.  Bake uncovered at 350 for 1 hour.

4. Peanut butter meltaway cake (to die for) 

1 c. margarine

¼ c. cocoa

½ c. buttermilk

1 c. water

2 c. sugar

2 c. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. vanilla

2 eggs



¾ c. peanut butter

¾ T. oil

½ c. margarine

¼ c. cocoa

1 lb. powdered sugar

6 Tbs. buttermilk

1 tsp. vanilla


Combine margarine, cocoa, buttermilk, and water in a saucepan and stir over low heat until bubbles appear, about 5-10 min.  Remove from heat ant add sugar, flour, soda, vanilla, and eggs.  Beat until smooth.

Pour into a greased 9 by 13 inch pan.  Bake in a preheated 350 oven for 25-35 min.  Cool.  Prepare icing.  Mix together peanut butter and oil.  Spread over cooled cake.  Refrigerate for 20 min.   Heat margarine and cocoa until bubbles form.  Add powered sugar, buttermilk, and vanilla, mixing well.  Immediately spread over peanut butter on cake.  Refrigerate before serving.

5. Veggies and dip (hey, we had to eat something healthy)

6. Grapes (ditto)

Kim also told me about a recipe for angel hair pasta that sounded really good, so I figured I’d include that too, even though we didn’t eat it this weekend:



1 lb. shrimp (cooked and peeled)

1 bunch broccoli

Salt to taste

¼ c. light olive oil

4 tbs. unsalted butter

2 scallions, cut into ¼ inch pieces

1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

2 tbs. white wine

16 oz. angel hair pasta

Grated parmesan cheese to taste


Cut broccoli into florets. Peel and chop the stem into bite size pieces.  Cook the broccoli in boiling water for 3-4 min. until crisp-tender.  Drain and place in ice water to cool.  Drain.  Heat oil and 3 tbs. butter in saucepan over medium heat.  In a skillet, melt remaining 1 tbs. butter and sauté the scallions and garlic for 2 min. Add the wine and cook for 5 min.  Add melted butter and oil, then the blanched broccoli and cooked shrimp.  Heat thoroughly.  Cook the pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente, about 30 seconds.  Drain well and place in a serving dish.  Toss with the broccoli mixture.  Serve at once with parmesan cheese.

Happy eating!

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OMG – What can I make for dinner?

One of my on-going struggles is around how to prepare healthy meals that my family will eat, when I get home at 6:00 or later.  I have the best intentions, but there are so many days when I walk in the door and I just don’t feel like spending the next 45 minutes preparing dinner.  (Not to mention the fact that if it takes me 45 minutes to get something on the table, David (age 5) and Margaret (age 2) will have already filled themselves up on baby carrots, pretzels and apples chips and string cheese.  There are days when Tim or Emma is home to put something in the oven if I’ve prepared it in the morning, but now with Emma running Cross-Country and Tim taking night classes, there’s often no one at home until 6.

One solution is to make sure I always have spaghetti, a few jars of spaghetti sauce and frozen packaged meatballs on hand, in case I need to punt.  I also make scrambled eggs and toast at least twice a month.  And I’m not above Kraft macaroni and cheese with cut-up hot dogs either.  (Although I won’t eat it myself.)

But I do have a list of easy, fast go-to recipes that I rely on regularly. I try to have the ingredients on-hand for at least a few of them at any given time.  (Note: I define “fast, easy” as things that either can be prepared start to finish in 30 minutes or less, or that I can do some of the preparation for (chopping, preparing a casserole) in the morning. ) Many of these recipes are from www.allrecipes.com, which I highly recommend.  They have a daily newsletter, which I get a lot of ideas from.

I also have crosk pot recipes, but I’ll post those another time. (The weather isn’t cold enough yet for the crock pot. Emma would say the weather is NEVER cold enough for the crock pot, but then she’s not a big crock pot fan.)

Deb’s Easy Recipes

1. Chicken with peanut sauce – Cut 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts into small pieces and brown in olive oil until done. Boil 1 lb. spaghetti.  Combine 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter, a dash of peanut oil, 3 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce, 3 Tbsp. rice vinegar, and 1 tsp. sugar.  (Don’t mix the sauce too far ahead of time, because it gets thick if it stands for a while. I found this out the hard way.)  Mix sauce with spaghetti and cooked chicken. Add 1 cup peas or some steamed broccoli.  You can add some sliced acallions on top too. 

2. Fettucine with shrimp and broccoli – Boil 1 lb. of shrimp and steam some broccoli and toss with 1 lb. cooked fettucine, lots of garlic, olive oil to taste and freshly grated parmesan cheese.  A great one-dish meal. Serve with some nice fresh bread.

3. Gorgonzola and apple pork chops: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Gorgonzola-and-Apple-Pork-Chops/Detail.aspx

4. Pasta with tomatoes and basil (vegetarian) – Dice 6 plum tomatoes (cut them in half and use a spoon to get all the seeds out before you dice them – don’t use the seeds, or this dish will be icky.)  Dice 3 cloves of garlic (or use a garlic press, like I usually do). Dice 10 leaves of basil (I chiffonade the basil – take 4 leaves stacked on top of each other, roll them up very tightly and slice.) Mix the basil, tomatoes and garlic with 3 Tbsp. of olive oil and 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar. Add some salt and pepper.  Boil 1 lb. of penne pasta and toss with the mixture.  Add 8 oz. crumbled feta cheese.  Serve with french bread.

5. Baked salmon with cilantro sauce (This recipe is for the grill. If you don’t want to do it in the grill, rub the salmon with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and put it in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes, then top with the sauce in the recipe). http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Grilled-Salmon-with-Cilantro-Sauce/Detail.aspx. We’re having this tonight.

6. Best baked ziti ever (can be made without meat)  http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Best-Ziti-Ever/Detail.aspx 

7. Cumin coriander skirt steak with sweet potato fries – Steak – combine 1 Tbsp. brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. ground cumin, 1/2 tsp. ground coriander seeds, and 1/4 tsp. ground red pepper and rub over both sides of a 1 lb. boneless sirloin steak. Bake in a cast iron skillet in a 450 degree oven for 7 minutes on each side.  Let stand 5 minutes. Cut steak diagonally across grain into thin slices.  Sweet potatoes – Peel 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes and cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch wedges.  Combine potato wedges, 1 Tbsp. olive oil, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. dried thyme, 1/4 tsp. black pepper, and 1/8 tsp. nutmeg.  Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Bake on bottom rack of oven for 25 minutes at 450 degrees.

8. Penne pasta bake – brown 1 lb. ground beef or turkey with 1/2 diced onion and some sliced mushrooms.  Drain any fat.  Boil 1 lb. penne pasta. Combine beef/onion/mushrooms with 2 jars of spaghetti sauce, 1 cup mozzarella cheese, and 2 tsp. of sugar.  Combine in a rectangular glass casserole and sprinkle 1 cup mozzarella cheese on top.  Bake in 350 degree oven of 30 minutes or until hot.  (I prepare this in the morning and then throw it in the oven when I get home.)

9. Stuffed shells florentine (vegetarian) – Cook 24 jumbo pasta shells.  Combine 1 cup mozzarella cheese, 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan, 1/2 cup egg substitute, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 2 tsp. dried basil, 2 tsp. dried oregano, 1/4 tsp. salt, 2 minced garlic cloves (use the press), 2 10 oz. packages of frozen, chopped spinach (thawed, drained, and squeezed dry) , and 1 15 oz. package reduced-fat ricotta cheese.  Spoon cheese mixture into cooked shells. Arrange the shells in a 13X9 baking dish coated with cooking spray. Pour 1 jar marinara sauce over the shells and sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. (Another one I prepare in the morning and then throw in the oven when I get home.)

So…what are your fast and easy dishes? Please share! My family is tiring of mine…

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