Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Quick Tomato Sauce

We have meatballs.

We have pasta, cooked and ready to go.

Now we need a sauce.

We could use the pomodoro sauce I've made in the past, but I wanted to try out a recipe I had saved from America's Test Kitchen.

At first glance, it looks complicated, but it really is extremely simple.  The hardest part is grating the onion - more so for me because I don't own a box grater (something I need to rectify ASAP.)  I was using a microplane zester.  YES, a zester.  This was the smallest grate ever.  If you don't have a grater, just cut in slices, and then cut the slices smaller.  It's almost the same effect.

My main substitution, as usual, were the tomatoes.  I had one can of petite diced tomatoes, and one can of diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings.  This was perfectly acceptable - use what you have on hand.  I will concede it might not be the exact same flavor, but when the can of diced tomatoes are $0.49 and the Muir Glen whole tomatoes are 3.99... you have to make a choice.  I erred on the side of affordability.

Cooking time was short and sweet.  I added the meatballs and let them simmer even longer in the sauce at a lower temperature.  I still think a smaller size for the meatballs would have been beneficial, and that's my fault. Oh well.  Next time.

Flavor wise, I can't choose between the sauces!  I love them both!  I might lean a bit more towards ATK, but Lucinda... AHHH.  So hard to choose.


Quick Tomato Sauce from America's Test Kitchen, Season 10.


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup grated onion, from one medium onion, grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Table salt
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes (or 2 14 ounce cans)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Ground black pepper

1.  Heat butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until melted.  Add onion, oregano, and 0.5 teaspoon salt.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and onion is golden brown, about five minutes.

2.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

3.  Add tomatoes and sugar.  Increase heat to high and bring to a simmer.

4.  Lower heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.

5.  Off heat, stir in the basil and oil.  Season with salt and pepper.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Light Turkey Meatballs

"How do you spend so little on groceries?"

"Well, I buy groceries based on what is on sale that week, and I plan meals around it."

"That's too much work."

FINE THEN, don't take my advice!

It really is the simplest way to save money when you are trying new recipes - just wait until the main ingredient is on sale.  For example, today I am posting about turkey meatballs.  Usually turkey is $5.99 for a 20 ounce package.  At Safeway, I received a special promotion with my club card, making the package only $1.99.  Of course I'm going to plan meals around the promotional price of ground turkey, and you'd be a fool to turn that price down - ground turkey never seems to get that cheap.

Now that my preaching is out of the way...

Everyday Food had a recipe in November for Asian Turkey Meatballs with Carrot Rice.  I was tempted to make these meatballs, but I am not a fan of hot sauce, so the amount of Siracha scared me.  I turned to other Martha turkey meatball recipes and discovered an Everyday Food recipe for Light Turkey Meatballs.  Unfortunately, this recipe only shows you how to make the actual meatballs, but they did link up to meatballs with tomato sauce over whole wheat pasta, which provided the instructions on how to cook the meatballs.  The instructions also said to use jarred pasta sauce, which would be faster, but I found the perfect excuse to try another tomato sauce recipe (coming soon!)

I found the meatball recipe to be extremely easy.  Easy is our friend.  They did seem a bit wet, and I cut myself cutting the scallions (darn ceramic knife!) but I really liked the taste.  Mr. UoC said they were a bit dry, and I admit I overcooked them (oops) but better safe than sorry sometimes, right?  I made the meatballs really large (I wound up with 20) so next time, make them much smaller! 

See what I mean about them being a bit too large?  Meatballs in a pot are never attractive, are they?

Light Turkey Meatballs from Everyday Food, January/February 2008.
Light Turkey Meatballs over Whole Wheat Pasta from Everyday Food, January/February 2008

  • 3 slices whole wheat (I used whole grain white) sandwich bread
  • 1/4 cup of milk
  • 1.5 pounds of ground turkey, 93 percent lean, dark meat (I only used 1.25 pounds)
  • 3 scallions, finely choppd
  • 2 small cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley (I cheated, used dried parsley)
  • 1 large egg
  • Coarse salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
1.  Place bread in a food processor, pulse until fine crumbs form.  In a small bowl, mix breadcrumbs with milk, set aside at least five minutes.  (You can also rip up the bread by hand and almost grind it into fine pieces if you don't want to use a food processor.)

2.  In a large bowl, combine turkey, scallions, garlic, egg, 1.5 teaspoons of salt, 0.5 teaspoons of pepper (eyeball those two last measures) and breadcrumb mixture.  Mix gently with a fork.  I used my hands.  (I also wore gloves because I'm a wimp like that.)

3.  Using your hands, shape into balls, about 2 tablespoons each.  You can also use an ice cream scoop to make your life easier.

4.  (Now going onto the second recipe)  In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium high heat.  Add meatballs and cook until browned on all sides, about 5-7 minutes.  Set aside.

Tomorrow, we move onto the sauce!  And the final results!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mashed Potato Pancakes

When one has leftover mashed potatoes, one should make mashed potato pancakes.

If you have leftover mashed potatoes, that is, but hey, a girl can only eat mashed potatoes on the side for so many meals.

So as I perused the internets for a new way to get my carb fix on, I couldn't find a recipe that called to me, so I winged it.

First, I added some egg white to thicken the potatoes.  No yolk, as I didn't want the pancakes to turn yellowish. I beat the whites first and tried to fold them into the potatoes.  No go.  It was still pretty runny.

Then I just started adding flour to thicken.  That helped a bit, but I was tired of adding flour and went "I'm frying these suckers up now, I'm hungry."

So I did.  And they came out pretty well - delish.  They had the consistency of a pancake in that soft, flaky manner, but with the flavor of mashed potatoes.  I could taste all the butter.  Butter....

Cook them as you would any other pancake, and enjoy.  I ate them plain, as I was in a hurry.  Syrup may be a bit weird, but I wouldn't object to gravy.

What?  It's still potatoes!  Just in pancake form!

Mashed Potato Pancakes, a'la me.

  • Leftover mashed potatoes (perhaps 1.5 cups here?)
  • One egg white
  • Flour, to thicken.
1.  Beat egg white until slightly fluffy, and fold into potatoes.  Determine how thick your batter is.  If it is thin, use flour to thicken.  If it's thick enough for you, commence cooking.

2.  In a skillet over medium heat, heat your oil (or butter.  Or bacon grease...) until hot.  Drop batter by the two tablespoons full, depending on the size of pancake you desire.  (Obviously my first pancake I went for the gusto, and it was a bit difficult to turn over.  I recommend smaller pancakes.)  Cook until it begins to bubble, and flip over.  Press lightly to flatten.  Flip over again after one minute, and determine doneness.

3.  Serve with your favorite mashed potato accompaniment, or eat as is, which is just as delicious.

I almost want to make mashed potatoes just to make pancakes!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mashed Potatoes

To complete this week's recipes, on the side of my chicken and biscuits were mashed potatoes.

I love potatoes.

Very much.

Mashed potatoes, french fries, home fries, hash browns... I'm starting to sound like Samwise Gamgee.

Mashed potatoes from scratch are very easy.  Sure, nothing is as easy as the instant potatoes, but with just a little time, you can have mashed potatoes from scratch, and none of the weird additives.  And way less salt - those packets are loaded with sodium.

I once again went to the America's Test Kitchen well for my recipe, but my main problem is that I do not own a ricer.  I had to mash these by hand with... a whisk.  Yes, I don't own a potato masher either.  It's not really an issue, you adapt, but there were definitely some lumps.  I tried to flatten every lump I could find with a fork.

I found that I needed to add more butter and salt to the recipe, BUT I used 2% milk instead of half and half or whole milk, as that was all I had on hand, which probably led to the addition of more butter.  Mr. UoC said they were bland, so I added a few more pinches of salt after I added the milk and butter.  Add a little bit of salt, and taste as you go along, as it is really easy to oversalt.

Would I make this again?  Probably, as it is relatively quick and easy.  Mashed potatoes are so easily adaptable though, so I'm sure there are many other recipes out there that can also be used with similar results.  This is a great, basic recipe that is very easy.  You can't mess it up!

Yummy though.  Yay potatoes!  

Mashed Potatoes by America's Test Kitchen

  • Two pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed clean (because I'm a dirt freak like that)
  • Salt
  • 1 cup half and half or whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • Pepper

1.  Place whole potatoes in salted water in a large pot.  Make sure the water covers the potatoes.  Bring to a boil over high heat and then simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

2.  Drain and peel potatoes.  (You can use your hands - you don't need a peeler.  The skin easily comes off from the potato, but be careful, it's HOT.)  

3.  Put potatoes through a food mill or ricer into a warm, dry saucepan.  

4.  Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan until warm and butter is melted.

5.  Pour milk/butter mixture onto potatoes and mix well.  Season with pepper to taste and serve.  At this point, also test for salt.  If you don't feel it's buttery enough, add a half of a teaspoon at a time until you are happy with the taste.

Biscuit, chicken, and potato.  Mmm a great meal!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Drop Biscuits

Biscuits and I do not get along.

I've made biscuits from Bisquick (in a previous life when I didn't bake from scratch.)
I've made biscuits from the can, with the satisfying "plop" each time I open the can.
I've made biscuits from scratch.

No matter what I do, the darn biscuits do not look like a fluffy, pretty, soft, biscuit.  I suspect I'm overbaking or overmixing, but alas, what can I do.

Well, except make them right, but this is my blog, so we'll overlook that shortcoming.

Then I came across my savior.  Two magic words.

Drop biscuits.


No fussy biscuit cutter required! (I don't even have one, so that may be part of my problem, although I have a glass that is about 2.25 inches across..)
Simple ingredients!

Wait, buttermilk?

I've never cooked with buttermilk in my life.  I usually try to avoid it so that I don't have to buy it.  But there's a quick solution around it - if you don't have buttermilk, put one tablespoon of white vinegar in a cup.  Add enough milk so that the total liquid is a cup.  (If you want to be picky, one tablespoon white vinegar, 15 tablespoons milk.)  Gently mix for a few seconds and let it sit for five minutes.

Ok, now that I'm over the buttermilk hurdle, this recipe also gets over the biscuit cutter hurdle - you use a 1/4 cup measure to make the biscuits!  Yes!  They're supposed to be lumpy, oddly shapen, and possibly kind of flat.  (I'm not perfect.)

The ingredients are so simple, the directions so easy, you need to go make these now.  My one caution:  baking at 475F.  This is a really high temperature and caused my smoke alarm to go off twice, and I had to reduce the heat to 400F immediately.  The biscuits still overcooked a bit, so I'd actually recommend cooking at 400 for about 12 minutes.  But the overall flavor was deliciously buttery, and Mr. UoC LOVED them.  He couldn't stop eating them, especially when they're warm.

Also, a note:  I completely goofed in the last few steps of this recipe.  I somehow read the recipe to say to brush the biscuits with butter BEFORE baking, not after.  Did it make a difference?  Probably not.  Although that is probably what set off my smoke alarm.

At least I don't bake in the middle of the night, right?

Drop Biscuits by America's Test Kitchen.  Makes 12 biscuits.

Puff up for me, baby.

  • 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, cold.
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly (about five minutes) plus 2 tablespoons melted butter for brushing biscuits

1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 475F degrees. (I recommend 400F.)  

2.  Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt in a large bowl.  Set aside.

3.  Combine buttermilk and 8 tablespoons melted butter in a medium bowl, stirring until butter forms small clumps.  This takes a few minutes, and do not skip this step!

4.  Add buttermilk mixture to wet ingredients and combine until just incorporated and batter pulls away from side of the bowl.  

5.  Using a greased 1/4 cup scoop (or I just divided the batter into pieces and shaped them) drop batter onto a parchment lined baking sheet.  

6.  Bake until tops are golden and crisp, 12-14 minutes.  Brush biscuit tops with butter, and transfer to a wire rack to cool, at least five minutes, before serving.

Serve with butter.  Also really delicious with peanut butter.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Garlic Chicken Legs

I stock chicken in my freezer regularly - I buy it when it's on sale or when I catch it on clearance.  (It's FINE when it's on clearance - either use it that day or freeze it.  It's on the last day of the sell-by date on the sticker.)

I needed to "de-stash" my freezer a bit, so I pulled out this recipe I've been sitting on for the chicken legs.  The recipe originally called for wings, but I figured a bit of adaptation never hurt anyone.

Today's recipe is from Everyday Chinese Cooking by Leeann and Katie Chin.  If you're from Minnesota, you've heard of the Leeann Chin restaurants - the Panda Express of Minnesota, if you would.  (They also recently purchased Pick Up Stix, which I ate at a few times in Southern California.)  The premise of the book is that Chinese cooking isn't that difficult or exotic - a few simple directions, ingredients anyone can find, and you are on your way.

I had always picked out this recipe with the intention to make it with either legs or thighs, but Mr. Unoriginal Chef said it would probably be better on wings... and that this was similar to a recipe his grandma made when he was a kid.  Go figure.  Every time I find an Asian recipe, it reminds one of us of our childhoods.

This recipe is extremely easy - the hardest part was adjusting the cooking time.  If you're using legs, I'd recommend 50 minutes.  At 40 minutes it wasn't quite done yet, according to my meat thermometer.  I left it in the oven for another 15 minutes, and it blew past done.  It wasn't dry though, which was fortunate!  Even reheated the next day for lunch, it was still tender.

Quick tip:  I forgot I didn't have a fresh bottle of ketchup, so I substituted with ketchup packets.  So in a pinch, 2 packets of ketchup is about 1 tablespoon.

Hellooooo hot out of the oven goodness!

Garlic Chicken Wings by Leeann and Katie Chin


  • 12 chicken wings (I used three chicken legs)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup ketchup (or 8 ketchup packets)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (I finely minced two cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger (I added a few dashes of ground ginger)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (table salt)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar

1.  Cut the chicken wings at the joints to make 3 pieces.  Reserve the tips to use in broth.

2.  In a small bowl, mix the vegetable oil, soy sauce, ketchup, garlic, ginger, salt and sugar.  Pour over the wings and marinate 1 to 2 hours in the refrigerator.  Minimum marinating time:  30 minutes.

I marinate inside a ziploc bag for ease of cleanup later.  

3.  When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400F.

4.  Line a shallow roasting pan (I used a 8x8 Pyrex) with foil for easy cleanup.  Add the chicken to the pan, and bake 40-55 minutes, or when a thermometer inserted in the thickest part, without hitting the bone, hits 180 degrees.

Really simple, basic ingredients, super easy, super yummy.

There were three legs... um... we ate one pretty quickly after it came out of the oven.  We couldn't help ourselves.