Off The Shelf: More-with-Less

There are three cookbooks my mom owned that I remember as a child: The Joy of Cooking, More-with-Less Cookbook, and The Congregationalist Church of Cambridge, VT Cookbook. Of these three, it was the More-with-Less from which much of what we ate came from. When I got married I made sure I took a copy of this book with me.

What is so great about this 33-year old, picture-less cookbook? Not gourmet recipes. No. This book is all about the basics of healthy living. It covers breads, cereals, beans, main dishes, dairy, meats and fish, soups, vegetables, salads, desserts and gardening and preserving.

Some of my all-time favorite recipes come from this book. Things like: Honey Whole Wheat Bread, Oatmeal Bread, Edna Ruth Byler’s Potato Dough, Baked Lentils with Cheese, Tomato Quiche, Chinese Savory Beef, Basic Meat Curry, Creamed Chicken, Cucumber Salad, and Roman Apple Cake.

One recipe I’ve made many times is Eggplant Parmesan. It’s perfect for this time of year when eggplants are plentiful. It doubles easily too.

EGGPLANT PARMESAN
( More-with-Less)
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1 medium eggplant

1 cup bread crumbs (can use gluten-free bread)
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. oregano

6 tomatoes, chopped (or one 14 oz. can chopped tomatoes)
2 green peppers, chopped (I leave these out)
2 onions, chopped
2 Tbsp. oil (olive oil)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. tomato paste (or thicken sauce with 1 Tbsp. flour)

1-2 cup grated cheese
1/4 cup additional Parmesan

Slice eggplant and place on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and broil 5-7 minutes. Turn slices, brush with olive oil, and broil until tender. Place in the bottom of a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish. (I would use a smaller dish.)

Mix breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, parsley, salt, pepper, and oregano and sprinkle over eggplant.

Combine tomatoes, green peppers, onions, oil, garlic and tomato paste in a saucepan. Simmer uncovered about 20 minutes then spread on top of the crumb mixture. Top with cheeses and bake uncovered 10-15 minutes at 375F. Can be made ahead and refrigerated.

Serves 4.

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Off The Shelf: Potato Salad

Potato Salad by Debbie Moose is a wonderful cookbook to have on your summer cooking shelf. The book contains 65 different recipes which all have me drooling and wanting to try each and every one!

Check out the names of some of these salads:

Farmer’s Market Salad
Grilled Potato Salad
Sweet Potato Waldorf Salad
Double Tater Salad
Ultimate Olive Salad
Lemony Dill Salad
Sweet Potato Salad
Quick Italian Salad
German Warm Potato Salad
Triple Cheese Potatoes
Sassy Salsa Salad
Smoky Bacon Salad
Sweet Potato Ambrosia Salad
Tart Lemon Pepper Salad
Curry Potato Salad
Tuscan Taters
Hungarian Potatoes
Greek Potato Salad
Blue Moon (using blue cheese and blue potatoes!!!)
Caesar Potato Salad
I tried the Herbs and Garlic Salad which was so good that it will become my go-to recipe for potato salad.

HERBS AND GARLIC SALAD
(Potato Salad)

2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
1 tsp. chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 Tbsp. chopped chives
1/2 cup chopped onion (I used green onion)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme

Place the potatoes in a large pot, add enough water to cover them, cover the pot with a lid, and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are pierced easily with the tip of a sharp knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain and let cool until you can handle them but they are still warm. Peel and cut into approximately 1-inch pieces.

In a large bowl, stir together the garlic, parsley, chives, onion, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, celery, salt, and black pepper. Crush the thyme lightly with your fingers and stir it in. Add the potatoes and toss until coated. Cover and refrigerate for several hours to overnight.

Serves 6.

I also tried the Pesto Potatoes which is meant to be served at room temperature. It was a nice twist to an old classic, but the cold leftovers were kind of nasty (in my opinion — others disagreed).

However, this Potato and Beet Salad was amazing! I’m a big fan of beets and thought this salad not only tasted great, but looked beautiful too.

And this Sweet Potato Waldorf Salad was an interesting twist on an old classic. I added blue cheese and those of us who like new and daring flavors enjoyed it.

As you can see, trying new potato salads has become addicting.

Off The Shelf: Well Preserved

Well Preserved: A Jam-Making Hymnal by Joan Hassol is a tribute to the joys of preserving the seasons in your kitchen. Part memoir, mostly recipes, this book was enjoyable to read through and imagine what kind of jam I might like to make next.

Hassol’s drive to make jam so matches my feelings that I felt I was reading my thoughts put on paper. Here are a few excerpts from the introduction: “There is something about finding the succulent, almost ripe fruits; about picking berries; about laboring in the hot sun, that awakens long-dormant memories of a sun-washed early childhood….I’m still a hunter-gatherer, with an instinctive sense of needing to ‘have enough’…Stacking jars fills me with a sense of security….This book is about my relationship with jam, my soul, music, and the world in which I live.”

Arranged seasonally, you will find recipes such as: Apple Grape Jam, Cranberry Raspberry Jam, Green Tomato Chutney, Cranberry Citrus Chutney, Lemon Ginger Marmalade, Orange Marmalade with Whiskey, Strawberry Rhubarb Jam, Rhubarb with Ginger Jam, Apricot with Rum Jam, Pineapple Ginger Jam, Blueberry Jam, Raspberry Amaretto Jam, Cherry Pineapple Jam, and Wild Cherry Jam. The book ends with a collection of muffins, breads and scones to enjoy with your jam.

I decided first upon the Strawberry Rhubarb Jam since I love that kind of pie. The directions were easy to follow and my jam came out exactly as it should. The original recipe did not include a processing time so I just checked with the National Center for Home Food Preservation and found I should process my jam for 10 minutes. I could have wished for more fruit flavor, and less sweet, but with the amount of sugar in these recipes, one won’t be getting something less sweet.

I would really like to try the Rhubarb Ginger Jam next!

STRAWBERRY RHUBARB JAM
(Well  Preserved)
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3 cups chopped, fresh or frozen unsweetened strawberries
1 cup chopped rhubarb
1/2 cup water
1  1/2 packages powdered pectin
7 cups sugar

Simmer the strawberries, rhubarb and water until the rhubarb is soft, about 5 minutes. Bring to a boil. Add the pectin. Return to the boil. Add the sugar slowly, stirring constantly. Bring to the boil again and boil for 1 minute, or until the jam sheets off the spoon. Pour into hot, sterilized jars. Cover with new, clean, hot lids. Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

Makes 7-8 eight-ounce jars.

Off The Shelf: Jamie At Home

Jamie at Home by Jamie Oliver is a perfect cookbook to peruse in the spring just as you may be planning your garden or beginning to haunt the farmer’s markets for seasonal produce.

This book is designed around the seasons, giving an outline for what is available when, tips on how to grow the fruits and vegetables, and delicious and creative recipes to use the produce.

Here’s what the contents of the book looks like:

SPRING: asparagus, eggs, lamb, rhubarb

SUMMER: barbecue, cabbage family, carrots and beets, climbing beans, zucchini, onions, peas and fava beans, pizza, potatoes, strawberries, summer salads, tomatoes

AUTUMN: chillies and peppers, feathered game, furred game, mushrooms, orchard fruit, pickles

WINTER: leeks, pastry, squash, winter salads, winter veg

As with all of Jamie’s books, there are plenty of gorgeous pictures.

I tried Jamie’s Creamy Asparagus Soup and it made a lovely lunch, complete with a salad and some homemade bread. We ate the leftovers the next day and agreed that the soup tasted even better after sitting overnight.

CREAMY ASPARAGUS SOUP
(adapted from Jamie at Home)
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1 3/4 pounds asparagus, woody ends removed
olive oil
2 medium white onions, peeled and chopped
2 sticks celery, trimmed and chopped
2 leeks, trimmed and chopped
2 quarts good-quality chicken or vegetable stock
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

cream for serving (optional)

 Chop the tips off your asparagus and put these to one side for later. Roughly chop the asparagus stalks. Get a large, deep pan on the heat and add a good glug of olive oil. Gently fry the onions, celery and leeks for around 10 minutes, until soft and sweet, without coloring. Add the chopped asparagus stalks and stock and simmer for 20 minutes with a lid on. Remove from the heat and blitz with a handheld immersion blender or in a standard blender. Season the soup bit by bit (this is important) with salt and pepper until just right. Put the soup back on the heat, stir in the asparagus tips, bring back to the boil and simmer for a few more minutes until the tips have softened.

Note: I dribbled a little cream over the top before serving. If you like really creamy soup, you could stir in 1/2-1 cup of cream before dishing the soup out.

Off The Shelf: The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Have you seen The Pioneer Woman Cooks yet? Written by Ree Drummond, this cookbook is the first published by the widely popular author of The Pioneer Woman blog. My order for this book at the library sat in line for quite some time as everyone was eager to see what was inside.

And now that I’ve had a chance to thoroughly look through the book, I’m trying to figure out just what I think. Here’s my verdict: this is a great cookbook, full of mouth-watering pictures and solid recipes that will most likely work for the masses, as well as being the perfect souvenir for those who follow the Pioneer Woman’s blog, but it’s not for everyone.

If you love Southern, down-home comfort food, made from scratch this is a great book to peruse. If you are all about tons of fresh vegetables, lots of wholegrains and little refined sugar, you won’t find much inspiration here.

Ree begins her book by introducing her family, their ranch and how she got started as the Pioneer Woman blogger. For anyone interested in country life, the book is fun just to flip through and enjoy the pictures and commentary of what they do on the ranch.

I did find the overall layout of the book to be just a bit too “scrap-bookey” for my taste. Color is everywhere, and of course there are gobs of pictures for each recipe, which may come in handy for those needing step-by-step instructions. The front cover of the book gives a good idea of the kind of layout inside the pages.

There are five chapters spread over 250 pages:

Starters: with recipes like BBQ Jalapeno Poppers, Guacamole, PW’s Potato skins, and Hot Artichoke Dip

In the Morning: think Cinnamon rolls, Egg-in-the-Hole, PW’s Breakfast Burritos, and French Breakfast Puffs

Dinner (Lunch): some samples are Simple, Perfect Chili, Onion Strings, Pulled Pork, Macaroni and Cheese, Cowboy Calzone, and Chicken Potpie

Supper (Dinner): with recipes such as Chicken-Fried Steak, Meatloaf, Fried Chicken, Homemade Ranch with Iceberg Lettuce, and Comfort Meatballs

Sweets: who isn’t tempted by Patsy’s Blackberry Cobbler, Flat Apple Pie, Chocolate Sheet Cake, Oatmeal Crispies, or Red Velvet Cake

It was hard for me to choose a recipe to try, as many of the recipes are not things I prefer to put on my table (as much as my mouth waters at their mention). I finally settled on Basic Breakfast Potatoes. The recipe was easy to follow and came out just fine.

BASIC BREAKFAST POTATOES
(The Pioneer Woman Cooks)
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4 to 5 red or other potatoes
1 large onion, cut into large, rough dice
vegetable oil for frying
bacon fat (optional)
salt
black pepper

Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in a 375F oven for 45 minutes, or until fork-tender.

Place the hot potatoes on a cutting board and dice them into 1-inch-ish pieces.

Heat a skillet over medium-low to medium heat. Next, put a little vegetable oil in the pan. A tablespoon is good. Scrape the pan you used to make bacon earlier this morning. You all made bacon this morning…right?

Then, because I usually straddle the fence between ridiculousness and utter foolishness, I add a tablespoon of bacon fat to the skillet. ‘Cause it tastes goooooood, that’s why.

Go ahead and make peace with yourself, then add the onion. Saute until it starts to turn brown.

Next, throw in the cooked, diced potatoes. Now, sometimes I’ll remove the onions first and wait to add them back in when the potatoes are brown. But I happen to like the onions to get all dark and burny, so I’m going to leave them.

Salt and pepper the potatoes, then stir them around, then slightly press/pack them in the skillet. Cook without stirring for several minutes. You want to make sure the pan is hot enough to crisp the potatoes, but not hot enough to char the poor dears.

NOTE: Sometimes, to make an interesting crust, I’ll sprinkle a couple of tablespoons of flour over the top of the potatoes while the underside is cooking. That way, when you flip them they’ll get a little crispy. In addition, a nice coating of paprika can give the potatoes a great depth of color.

After several minutes, use a spatula to flip the potatoes over to the other side. Be sure to thoroughly salt and pepper the potatoes. Because no matter how you slice it, potatoes must have seasoning. Lots and lots of seasoning.

Enjoy them! Spoon them into your breakfast burritos or place a fried egg on top…or serve them alongside eggs Benedict if you’re feeling especially saucy.

Makes 8 servings.

Now it’s your turn to check out The Pioneer Woman Cooks and let me know what you think!

Off The Shelf: Jamie’s Food Revolution

I am so excited about Jamie Oliver’s latest book Jamie’s Food Revolution. Not only do I like the fact that in this book Jamie wants to help people learn to cook good meals for themselves, but I feel this cookbook has more practical recipes that I would actually make than any of his other books.

Jamie Oliver is a food legend in the UK who has written nine cookbooks now and hosted numerous cooking series on television. His newest television series “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution”, filmed here in America, is set to debut this Friday on ABC. The premise of this latest cookbook and the new television series is basically the same: learn to cook fresh, delicious, and balanced meals and thereby revolutionize your life and health.

This cookbooks is broken down into 14 chapters which include: Twenty-Minute Meals, Quick Pasta, Tasty Stir-Fries, Easy Curries, Lovin’ Salads, Simple Soups, Homely Ground Beef, Comforting Stews, Family Roast Dinners, Delish Veggies, Classic Fish, Kick-Start Breakfasts, and Sweet Things.

As always, Jamie’s cookbook is filled with mouth-watering pictures and easy-to-read recipes. Here are some of the recipes I want to try: Chicken and Leek Stroganoff, Asian Chicken Noodle Broth, Chicken Korma, Evolution Cucumber Salad, Meatballs and Pasta, Basic Stew with Four Variations, Broccoli with Asian Dressing, Braised Bacon Cabbage, Kedgeree, and Fruit Scones.

I chose to try Jamie’s Chicken Tikka Masala which came out full of flavor and very delicious. My children even voted this a good meal! I couldn’t find tikka masala paste anywhere, so I had to make Jamie’s own, which I was glad I did — it wasn’t as complicated as it sounded and the taste was terrific.

CHICKEN TIKKA MASALA
(Jamie’s Food Revolution)
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4 skinless chicken breast fillets, preferable free-range or organic
2 medium onions
1 fresh red chile (I left this out for my family)
a thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger
a small bunch of fresh cilantro
peanut or vegetable oil
a pat of butter
1/2 cup tikka masala or mild curry paste, such as Patak’s, or Jamie’s tikka masala paste
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
1 cup natural yogurt
a small handful of sliced almonds
1 lemon

Slice the chicken breasts lengthways into 3/4-inch-thick strips. Peel, halve, and finely slice the onions. Finely slice your chile. Peel and finely slice the ginger. Pick the cilantro leaves and put to one side, then finely chop the stalks.

Put a large casserole-type pan on a medium to high heat and add a couple of lugs of oil and the butter. Add the onions, chile, ginger, and cilantro stalks and cook for 10 minutes, until softened and golden. Add the curry paste and the strips of chicken. Stir well to coat everything with the paste and season with salt and pepper. Add the tomatoes and coconut milk. Fill one of the empty cans with water, pour into the pan, and stir again. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes with the lid on. Check the curry regularly to make sure it’s not drying out and add extra water if necessary. When the meat is tender and cooked, taste and add a bit more salt and pepper — please season carefully.

This will be fantastic served with rice and a few spoonfuls of yogurt dolloped on top. Sprinkle over the almonds and cilantro leaves and serve with some lemon wedges for squeezing over. And a little lemon-dressed green salad would round it off.

Serves 4-6.

JAMIE’S TIKKA MASALA PASTE

2 cloves garlic
a thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbsp. peanut oil
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 fresh red chiles (I left this out for my family)
a small bunch of cilantro
1 Tbsp. unsweetened shredded coconut
2 Tbsp. almond flour

Spices for toasting: 1 tsp. cumin seeds, 1 tsp. coriander seeds

First peel the garlic and ginger. Put a frying pan on a medium to high heat and add the spices for toasting to the dry pan. Lightly toast them for a few minutes until golden brown and smelling delicious, then remove the pan from the heat. Add the toasted spices to a pestle and mortar and grind until fine, or put them into a food processor and whiz to a powder. Either way, when you’ve ground them whiz the toasted spices in a food processor with the rest of the ingredients until you have a smooth paste.