Saturday, May 26, 2012

Menu Planning Made Ultra Easy!

We all know this—smart cooks engage in consistent menu planning. And why? Because with menus planned in advance, operations can be dove-tailed, meaning you can plan leftovers, delegate effectively, and work ahead of yourself.

The dove-tailing trend is becoming a popular cooking approach for good reason. Rather than looking at one meal in isolation, the dove-tailing method entails looking at your weekly menu plan as a whole. For instance, you could make extra chicken from a stir-fry recipe one night, to use in your chicken tacos the next day. This strategy saves both time and money, and there are lots of dove-tailing menu plans available online. Here's an example of a dove-tailing menu plan with details on how to dove-tail it:
MONDAY: Swiss steak, peas, baked potatoes
TUESDAY: Ham, potato salad, broccoli spears
WEDNESDAY: Chicken and rice, asparagus tips, vegetables gelatin salad
THURSDAY: Stir-fried beef, rice, Chinese corn soup
FRIDAY: Scalloped potatoes and ham

·       When preparing vegetables for the Swiss steak, chop up extra to be used in Wednesday's gelatin salad. (Leftover peas will also be used).
·       Also, slice extra celery for Tuesday's potato salad and Thursday's stir-fried beef. (Keep sliced vegetables in an airtight container to keep them crisp and prevent vitamin loss.)
·       Cut up the flank steak for the stir-fried beef and quickly brown it just before you brown the Swiss steak. Refrigerate until needed.
·       Bake extra potatoes to use in Tuesday's potato salad; it's easy to toss the salad together while the ham is heating and the broccoli is steaming.
·       Be sure to plan enough leftover ham for scalloped potatoes and ham later in the week.

·       While cleaning up the dinner dishes, place your chicken in a slow cooker with enough liquid (water or broth) to keep it from burning. Set on low heat. In the morning as you’re cleaning up the breakfast dishes, prep the chicken for Wednesday’s meal of chicken and rice.

·       The vegetables are ready to add to the gelatin.
·       As you cook the rice you’ll make extra for Thursday's stir-fried beef, rice cereal for breakfast, or rice pudding.

·       With the rice, meat, and sliced celery prepared, all that's left is to assemble ingredients and quickly stir-fry beef and vegetables.
·       Heat soup and rice.

With a little planning you can organize your cooking steps and eliminate several "get ready" and "clean up" jobs. For example, in our sample menus, if you prepared each meal individually, you'd have to chop celery four times. By dovetailing, you do it once. You'd prepare potatoes and rice twice each; with dovetailing, you do it once. You'd brown meat twice; with dovetailing, you do it once. Dove-tailing means you can cut your work in half! 

And THAT'S menu planning made ultra easy! Do you have menu planning tips to share? We'd love to hear how you do it. Meanwhile, here's to family dinner made easy as we wisely plan our meals in advance, dove-tailing all the way!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Gluten Intolerant Can Enjoy Flour-Free Fool-Proof Cornbread!

Yesterday we promised more fool-proof cornbread recipes from the wonderful website, Prepared Pantry. So here you go. They've done all the trial and error so we don't have to! And remember, for the gluten intolerant, these recipes are just the ticket. So here's to corn bread indulgence and family dinner made easy!

This is a sweeter cornbread with a different texture. Apple and bacon are a wonderful combination. Instead of cheese, it's made with melted butter and maple syrup. It is an egg-rich, skillet cornbread and a flourless recipe.

1 1/4 C yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 melted butter
3 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 pound bacon
1 1/2 medium sized apples, finely diced or shredded with peel

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Fry the bacon to a crisp, pat the grease from the bacon with paper towels, and crumble or chop the bacon.

In a large bowl, stir together the cornmeal, baking powder, salt and spices. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs then stir in the milk, melted butter, and maple syrup plus the bacon and apples. Form a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Mix with a spatula until well combined.

Bake in a 10-inch, nonstick skillet for 20 minutes or until all but the center of the cornbread is set. Remove the cornbread from the oven and immediately sprinkle the reserved cheese over the cornbread to melt. Serve hot with butter and maple syrup.

This recipe was adapted from Baking in America by Greg Patent.  (We recommend this book.)  For our version of this recipe, we used chiles instead of jalapenos, red bell pepper instead of pimientos, and garlic powder instead of clove garlic.   

1 C yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped and diced
1/2 medium sized onion, chopped and diced
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 4-oz can diced green chiles, drained (less if you prefer a less spicy bread)
1 cup corn kernels--fresh, frozen, or canned
11/2 cups grated cheese, cheddar or jack

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a ten-inch skillet and place it on the middle shelf in the oven.In a large bowl, stir together the cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, and salt.   In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs then stir in the rest of the ingredients, reserving 1/2 cup of the grated cheese. 

Form a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  Mix with a spatula until well combined. Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven and immediately pour the batter into the pan.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and return to the oven. Let bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean.  The top will be a rich, golden brown.  Let cool for ten minutes before un-molding. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Training on Fool-Proof Cornbread!

From the wonderful PreparedPantry, comes an amazing basic cornbread recipe that you can do all sorts of things with. This skillet cornbread recipe is perfect for any in the family that are gluten intolerant. It relies on eggs for the structure, not flour. Dennis Weaver, founder and owner of Prepared Pantry says they’ve made it so often that it has evolved from a series of recipes to a technique. Using a ratio of ingredients, they use this technique to make both sweet and savory cornbread—whatever they’re in the mood for—from JalapeƱo Cheese Cornbread to Banana Nut Cornbread.

This sounds so appetizing and amazing, that we thought we’d pass on the Prepared Pantry’s expertise, along with this wonderful recipe. Tomorrow--their other skillet cornbread recipes. So from baking expert, Dennis Weaver, here’s how to make basic (foolproof) cornbread:
You will need a ten-inch, ovenproof skillet. A heavy metal skillet is best. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with the skillet in the oven.

1. Cornmeal. Place 1 1/2 cups cornmeal in a medium bowl. If you are going to use corn kernels, reduce the cornmeal to one cup. If you would like a softer grain to your cornbread, add the liquids and eggs to the cornmeal and refrigerate it for an hour so that the cornmeal grains absorb the liquid.

2. Eggs. Add three large eggs to the cornmeal. It’s the eggs that will give your cornmeal structure, holding it together.

3. Fat. Cornbread tends to be dry and the addition of an oil or fat is essential for a moister cornbread. Without adequate fat, your cornbread will be dry. The eggs provide some of the fat, and bananas or applesauce reduce some of the need for fat. Use melted butter or vegetable oil. If you are using cheese, bananas, or applesauce, 1/4 cup fat will do. (We suspect that you can leave it out all together with a cheesy cornbread.) Other wise, use 1/2 cup fat. Add it when you add the eggs.

4. Spices and salt. Generally use 1/2 teaspoon salt. If you are using cheese, you may reduce it to 1/4 teaspoon. Add whatever spices you choose. One teaspoon of cinnamon or allspice
is about right. You can add the salt and spices anytime.

5. Sweetener. For a savory cornbread, one teaspoon of sugar or honey will do. For a sweeter cornbread, we use up to two tablespoons. Add it anytime.

6. Leavening. You can get by without any leavening but we prefer to add 1 teaspoon of baking powder. (If you do not use baking powder, increase the salt by 1/4 teaspoon since baking powder contains sodium.) Since baking powder looses potency after sitting in the batter, add the leavening just before the “additions” and soon before baking.

7. “Additions”. Stir in the additions of choice.

8. Liquid. You will likely need some liquid to make the batter soft and of the right consistency. It should be barely pourable. The amount of the liquid will be determined by the moisture content of the additions but you will need anywhere from a couple tablespoons to one cup. Stir in the liquids after the additions. We usually use milk but you can use what you want from water to a juice.

Mix all ingredients well. Notice that this is a one-bowl technique.

Remove the hot pan from the oven being careful not to burn yourself. Add one tablespoon of butter and tip the pan from side to side until the butter is melted and the bottom and sides of the pan are covered. Add the batter to the pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top is golden. Serve hot and refrigerate any leftovers.

And here's a tip: even savory cornbread tastes great with hot maple syrup! If you try this recipe, let us know what you think. We're excited to try Dennis' cornbread training in our own kitchens and hope this information assists you in making family dinner hour possible!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


What’s cook’n at your house? Alice and Jeanne are busy as bees in the test kitchen whipping up recipes from all you good cooks. Everyone has one or two recipes that they are famous for. You know the dish you always get rave reviews on. The one that gets the exclamation, “Who made this and can I have the recipe?”

We want one of your favorite recipes in our 3rd edition of the Cook’n magazine that is due out in Nov/Dec. Please share your favorite Holiday recipes with us? If your recipe is chosen by our review board, you will be given full credit for your creation and a couple of free magazines to share with your family or friends.  The recipes don’t have to be unique; they just have to be delicious.

We are looking for recipes for:

Holiday Appetizers
Healthy Holiday Meals
Quick Winter Meals
Turkey Recipes
Holiday Side Dishes.

Cook’n is a beautiful magazine! Take a look at  You’ll love having a copy of your own. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Thursday, May 10, 2012


To help her with her blogging and her Cook'n Magazine work, Alice's daughter, Mary, gave her the book THE FAMILY DINNER: GREAT WAYS TO CONNECT WITH YOUR KIDS, ONE MEAL AT A TIME (Laurie David).

It's absolutely awesome, so we wanted to tell you about it. It's loaded with inspiration, terrific tips, and mouth-watering recipes. Here are just a few of the hundreds of ideas this book contains:

  • Consider purchasing a tiffin tin for picnics, tail-gating, etc.: "...a tiffin tin--that wonderful Indian stackable lunchbox, usually three-tiered, stainless steel, and reusable forever. Fill these with your salad and snacks and marvel at how easy they are to serve, clean up, and store leftovers in. Find inexpensive ones in Indian or Asian markets and online at"
  • "Pack leftover mac 'n cheese into a square baking dish. When it's cold, cut into individual serving-size squares, wrap each one tightly with foil, label what it is and when it was made, and stack them in your freezer. Next time you need one serving, remove the foil and pop a frozen serving into the microwave or oven. Heat until warm and enjoy."

  • It's getting to be corn-on-the-cob season, so "Roast whole corn in the oven. Leave the husks on; put it in the oven and roast for 30 minutes at around 350 degrees. Just pull off the husks and silk and serve." How easy is that!
  • "Instead of rummaging around in your cupboard whenever you need salt, keep a bowl of it out, ready to grab whenever you need it. Kosher salt works well this way because it is easy to take pinches of."
  • "Leftover tip: Slip a warm meatball or two into a pita bread and top with leftover salad and cheese. Add a little ranch dressing or Tahini sauce if you have it."
  • Finally, an inspiring thought: "The difference between knowing 3,000 words and knowing 15,000 words when you arrive at kindergarten is enormous. Using grown-up words with children as they enter the toddler and preschool years helps them learn. (Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute and author of MIND IN THE MAKING.)" We think dinnertime is the perfect place to introduce family, in a concentrated way, to the beauty of language!
There's tons more in this amazing book, and we'll be quoting and sharing from it on a regular basis. It's available at, so take a look and let us know what you think. And, do YOU have a good book you could recommend? We'd love to hear about it.  Meanwhile, here's to family dinner made easy as we shore up our resolve with good reading from great blogs, inspiring books, and so on!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Go ... Fish!

Do you want your hair to shine, your nails to grow and your skin to stop being dry, your joints to stop aching and how about the prospect of better brain and eye function as well as a myriad of other health related benefits? Well then – go with Fish!

Fish contains Omega 3 fatty acids. This is not just any fatty acids, this is polyunsaturated fatty acids. As much as you might hope that you could obtain all these great benefits from hamburgers, French fries, pie and ice cream, it won’t come close to happening. The saturated fats that come from these types of food are not healthy for you and should be eaten only in moderation.

Your body can’t live without fat. Even your brain is 60% fat (we could get some great jokes going right about now). Healthy fat is needed in all your cells in order to function and a continuous supply of these fatty acids are needed in order for your body to function at its optimum. Since your body doesn’t naturally produce essential fatty acids on their own, you need to be supplying them to your body on a regular basis.

The American Heart Association recommends two servings of cold-water fish a week. The following recipes: (Walnut Crusted Salmon, Zesty Shrimp Alfredo) will help provide your body with some of the ever needed essential fatty acids. Remember, they are called essential for a reason, but if you just aren’t a seafood lover you can use fish oil supplements. Some of the other sources of Omega 3 fatty acids are flax seeds, walnut, almonds and dark leafy greens.

Seafood can be served in such a great variety of ways. Fish definitely offers superior nutrition and diversity to your menu.

Walnut Crusted Salmon Salad

1 cup finely chopped Walnuts
2 teaspoons dill
6 Tablespoons bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon fresh grated lemon peel
1 Tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 Teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 Pound salmon fillet

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees. Brush the top of the salmon with Dijon mustard.

Mix: The chopped walnuts (or pecans) with the bread crumbs, lemon rind, dill and pepper.

Add: the oil and mix thoroughly with a fork. Press the crust mixture onto the mustard basted salmon to one side only, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20-30 minutes. This will help the crust to adhere to the fish. Place the salmon on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes or until the salmon flakes with a fork.

Spicy Alfredo Shrimp

16 large shrimp
2 ½ Tablespoons of butter
1 Tablespoon of Cajun spice

On Medium heat cook the shrimp in the skillet with butter and Cajun seasoning, until the shrimp turn pink. If you are using already cooked shrimp, it only takes a minute to warm the shrimp thoroughly. Prepare two packages of Alfredo sauce according to the instruction on the package. Add the sauce to the spicy, buttered shrimp. Serve this over Linguini or Angel hair pasta. 

Fish is good and good for you!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An Easy Way to Jazz Up Dinner!

We all have our favorite dishes and stand-by menus that we tend to depend on. But in our quest to create excitement for and devotion to family dinner, we might want to jazz things up once in awhile--just to keep family intrigued and comin' back for more.

This said, we were tickled when reader and great cook, Colleen Kimler, recently shared an idea for adding variety and interest to basic dishes--embellishing with a creamy Polbano sauce. This sauce is delicious and easy to prepare. We'd suggest using less of the Poblano peppers though, if you're cooking for younger children. Here's Colleen's comments and her recipe. We hope you try this and let us know what you think. And meanwhile, here's to family dinner made easy as we share our recipes for keeping things interesting! 

"I make chili rellenos about every couple of months and I roast a dozen or so Poblano peppers, peel, seed and what I don't need at the moment, I freeze between layers of wax paper. Makes it a lot easier. Also, some grocers sell them already peeled and seeded in the frozen food section. Look for them in the ethnic foods also in cans. Don't use pickled. Serve over steamed broccoli, cauliflower, steaks, roasted chicken, enchiladas, or pasta, etc. Let your imagination guide you."

CREAMY POBLANO SAUCE (yield: approximately 2 cups)

3 1/2  tablespoons butter, divided use       
1 ½ Tbsp flour
1 1/2  cups milk
3 oz  cream cheese, plain or w/chives
1/2     tsp chicken bouillon powder
Salt & pepper, to taste
2 Poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded

Melt 3 TBSP butter over low heat, add flour and mix well. Cook until flour is golden while stirring constantly. Pour in milk and whisk to mix well. Add cream cheese, remaining 1/2 Tbsp butter, chicken bouillon, salt & pepper.

Stir over low heat until cheese is melted. Pour into blender or food processor, add Poblano peppers and puree. Pour back into sauce pan and bring to gentle simmer, whisking constantly. Cook about 2-3 minutes or until thickened slightly (like gravy). If too thick, add more milk or chicken broth.        

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Forks Over Knives" and The Date People--Two Resources You'll Want to Tap In To!

Alice has been in New York City visiting her daughter, Sarah, for the last 10 days. She came home with a couple unrelated ideas that we want to share with you, just because we're as concerned about healthy eating as we are sharing wonderful recipes.

1) Have you seen the documentary, "Forks Over Knives?" If not, go to Rotten Tomatoes ( and look at all the trailers. If there are any health or weight issues going on in your family, you'll especially be interested in this movie. It features two of the world's leading medical doctors/scientists and their 20+ years of research. Others featured are folks who've reversed their diabetes, lost weight, overcome cancer, and healed heart disease. We'd love to know what you think if you do watch this. We got it from Netflix.

 2) Do you know about The Date People ( Their website says "We farm 8 acres of dates in the Southern California Desert, and are committed to providing the highest quality raw dates at affordable prices. Our fruit is never heated, frozen, or altered from its natural state in any way. We are a raw vegan community supplier." If you have any sugar-related issues in your family, you'll want to know all about the many things you can do with dates--a healthy way to still have sweets without wreaking havoc with blood sugar, insulin resistance, etc.

BUT, not just any date will do. You want FRESH dates, and we simply cannot get them in stores (not even whole food or natural food stores). Our research shows the BARHI date is the very best variety when it comes to getting a fresh date (as opposed to dried). As wonderful as Medjool dates are, for instance, they are dried, and as such, just don't work for diets coping with sugar issues. You'll notice in this picture how plump the dates are--they're still full of water--hence, FRESH. Thus, The Date People is where you want to go for fresh, Barhi dates.

We talked to The Date People today and learned that like any fruit, dates have their season. Barhi and other varieties will come into season in the fall--around September. And their season ends in January. Good to know.

So that's it for today--talk to us about either topic--we love hearing from you. Until next time then, here's to family dinner made easy as we explore ways to eat better and fortify our health!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Delicious Sandwich Spreads

A sandwich, in my opinion, is only as good as the sauce you put on it. Some of you are mayonnaise fans and others of you love your mustard or ketchup.  Since the sandwich is ever evolving and anything goes when it comes to the ingredients you put in between or on top of two pieces of bread. The same goes for the condiments we put on our sandwiches. A new-fangled sauce can make your everyday sandwich unique and delectable. We have been trying new sauces on our sandwiches and I’m telling you, a savvy sauce can make a good sandwich heavenly. It’s time to get something on that sandwich besides mayonnaise, mustard and ketchup. Here are few recipes for some sauces that will turn your everyday sandwich into a gourmet sandwich.

Honey Mustard Dill Spread
                                    ¼ cup mustard                          2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar                    
                                    2 teaspoon chopped dill            1 cup mayonnaise
                                    1 Tablespoon honey                

This spread is fantastic on ham and cheese sandwiches. I also like this as an egg salad base! I just add a tablespoon of milk instead of honey. Whisk all the ingredients together for a delightful sandwich spread.

Basil Mayo Spread
                                    ¼ cup mayonnaise                                ¼ cup sour cream
                                    2 teaspoons white wine vinegar ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
                                    1 Tablespoon chopped fresh basil         ¼ teaspoon dry mustard

This is a creamy spread that will give your chicken or turkey a flavor to die for! This is also delicious with grilled salmon on a bun. Whisk all the ingredients together.

Chipotle Spread
                                    1 cup mayonnaise                     2 Chipotle peppers in adobe sauce
                                    ½ lime                                      ¼ teaspoon salt
                                    ⅛ teaspoon pepper      

You won’t hear any complaints if you use this spread on a hamburger, a slider or a pork sandwich. Remove the chilies from the adobe sauce. Run a knife down the center of the pepper to remove the seeds. Finely chop the peppers. Stir all the ingredients together.

Horsey Sauce

                                    1 cup mayonnaise         2 Tablespoons horseradish
                                    ⅓ cup chili sauce

Some spices just go better with roast beef. This is a recipe that will kick up that roast beef to a whole new level. Whisk all ingredients together until well blended.

BLT Special Sauce
                                    ½ cup mayonnaise                    ½ cup sour cream
                                    ¼ cup chili sauce

My husband loves this sauce on a BLT.  This sauce is also tasty on a fried egg sandwich. Whisk all ingre

I hope you try one of these sauces on your own creation!dients together until smooth and creamy.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Domestic Pie Bliss

My mother-in-law gave me very little advice when I was first married. But, one bit of counsel that she did give me seemed a little strange at the time. She said “Never tell your husband bad news on an empty stomach!”

As funny as it may seem, it has worked well for my husband. In fact, it pretty much works that way with the whole family, male or female. Even I have been accused of being cranky when I’m hungry!

I know it is not healthy to console one’s self with food but, in moderation, some foods can cheer you up a bit. Although comfort foods vary from person to person, there seems to be consensus on some dishes, one of them being apple pie. There is something about coming home to the smell of apple pie straight from the oven, with a golden crust, bubbling over with fruit, cinnamon and sugar.

It’s a good idea to have several dishes to choose from to accomplish this pacifying affect. The last thing you want to do is to start associating apple pie with trauma! And, the fact of the matter is... some problems are just bigger than apple pie. Sometimes it’s just nice to have pie, just because. But for a little stress relief, try a slice of warm “Domestic Bliss Apple Pie.” If you wrecked the car, you might want to add a scoo of ice cream.

Domestic Bliss Apple Pie

9 baking apples (I like to mix them so I use Granny Smith and Jonathan together.)
3/4 cup sugar (for more of a Carmel flavor use brown sugar)
¼ cup of all purpose flour
1½ Teaspoon cinnamon
½ Teaspoon nutmeg
¼ Teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Using a large bowl – peel, core and slice the apples. In a medium bowl, with your hands, mix the dry ingredients; flour, sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add the dry ingredients to the apples and toss with your hands until the apples are nicely coated. Place the mixture in a pastry-lined 9 inch pie pan. Dot the top of the apples with butter. Add the top crust and vent the pie crust top making a few slits with a knife. You might think you have too many apples in the pie, don’t worry they cook down.

When you are ready to bake the pie, turn the oven temperature down to 350 degrees and bake for 50 -60 minutes. I cook the pie at a lower temperature than most people do. I feel that it works just as well and I don’t burn the edge of the crust. You can make a tin foil ring to go over the edge of your pie crust if it is browning too quickly.

And, sometimes instead of a top crust I use a strudel mix on top.

Strudel Topping for Apple Pie

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
¼ cup cold butter

In a medium bowl; mix flour, sugar and small slices of cold butter. Rub the mixture with your palms and fingers of your hand until the consistency of the mixture is like coarse corn meal. Spread evenly on top of your pie before baking.

Flakey, Buttery Pie Crust

The butter flavor shortening really makes the difference in this pie crust. Not only does it have a buttery taste, it also has a beautiful golden color. Using ice water and not over mixing are also very important. This is a never fail pie crust!

4 cups all purpose flour
1 ¾ cup butter flavored shortening
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 Teaspoons salt
1 egg
1 Tablespoon vinegar
½ cup ice water

Mix the dry ingredients with the shortening by rubbing with your palms and fingers until it looks like course cornmeal.

In a small bowl, add vinegar, egg and ½ cup of ice water. Whisk with fork and add to dry ingredients. At this point, the less you handle the dough the better. Mix with fork and then gather together into a ball with your hands. I cover the dough with plastic wrap and let set in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to make it is even easier to roll. This recipe will make 2 double crusted pies.

I'm just having a little fun today and wanted to share some really good advice ... Bad news really does goes down so much better on a full stomach. The prescription is for apple pie therapy is to eat one medium piece of pie. Eat it slowly, savor it and share it with someone else who might be having a rough day! After all, we are all in this together!