Friday, October 30, 2009



Do you still have a regular old toaster oven? They were a great invention but its time for you to move on. Its called a convention oven. It broils, bakes,  toasts, convention bakes and its larger so it can handles a small pizza too. It reduces the time for baking, it saves energy big time.  Why?
You don't heat your big oven except for large cakes and big roasts etc... Also in the summer, you are not heating the entire kitchen area.
If its time to replace, check out the Cuisinart Convection oven. Costco has them on sale with a $20 off coupon. Its well worth it. I have talked 2 friends into buying them and they love them now.

I checked out Sam's club and they had a cheap one made in China.  It looked it too. You can have a pretty complete working kitchen with a microwave, refrigerator, stovetop, and the convention oven.  Of course a functioning sink, lights and electricity are necessary.

If you live in a small apartment, these appliances would be perfect for 99% of all cooking needs.


Recipe is doubled.   
I just can't see making a small amount for all that work. These are my favorites but I think the spinach ones are great too.

3  pounds  ground beef
     ( I use beef and turkey which reduces the fat content while the beef adds to the flavor)
2  medium onions
2  cups bread crumbs
       ( I used seasoned but I am going to try Panko bread crumbs next time.)
2/3  cup  Romano Cheese
2/3  cup chopped fresh parsley              
4  eggs                                                      
3  teaspoons  salt                                                  
2  teaspoons  freshly ground black pepper              
6  cloves of minced garlic
6 T olive oil ( for frying)     I BAKE MINE.  NEVER FRY THEM.

FRYING.  Fry in oil until brown,  3 to 5 minutes and turn over and do other side. 

BAKING.  Prepare baking pan with foil with slits for draining off fat.  Or use a cooking cooking rack inside the pan.
Bake in oven  at 375 for 15 to 20 minutes.  They will look brown on top.
Drain. Cool.  Can be easily frozen in plastic bags for future use.

Cook in sauce for about 10 to 30 minutes before serving.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


                 Spinach Meatballs Recipe

1 large bunch of spinach, washed and torn (about 3 cups). 
     Cooked until tender and chopped.
1 large onion, minced
2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 pound lean ground beef
     or turkey 
     or turkey and beef combined
     or beef and pork combined
1 beaten egg
1/3 cup grated Romano cheese
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs,
      planko style 
      or Italian style
Salt and pepper to taste.

Saute onion and garlic in olive oil over low heat until soft.
Add onion-garlic mixture to remaining ingredients and form golf-ball size balls.
Bake in oven on cookie sheet for 20 minutes at 375.  They are best completely done or not quite. 
They can finishing cooking in your favorite sauce.
Place in your tomato sauce. Cook gently for 30 minutes.

My suggestions for flavor is the combination of pork and beef.  I found that beef added to the turkey gave the meatballs some fat, more flavor and texture.  But all choices will be good. 
I usually make 5 pounds into meatballs and then separate and freeze in bags. Its a wonderful quick meatball sandwich or a single serving of pasta with two meatballs.  One is just silly.  

My New Rule of slow cooking

l.  If your recipe calls for vegetables put in with meat and slow cooked together for hours, don't do it that way.

2. Cut a large stalk of celery and/or other vegetables such as a small whole onion and place it with the meat. This way the flavor is in the meat and sauce.

3.  The rest of the vegetables, cut up and have ready for that final hour or so of cooking.

4. When the meat is ready, remove the large pieces of vegetables from the pot.  They should be easy to find unless they are mush.  I hate mush unless its really part of the recipe taste and texture.

5. Reduce the sauce as per recipe.

6. The flavor of the large vegetables should be in it and you can still see the other cut up pieces and they are not totally overcooked.

I wish I had done that with a new recipe for short ribs I made last night.  Results were lots of mush.


3 or more tablespoons olive oil
4 to 4 1/2 pounds beef oxtails
4 celery stalks, chopped fine
2 carrots, chopped fine
3 carrots whole (to add sweetness, remove later.)
1 onion chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped

½ bottle dry red wine
 12 sprigs fresh thyme chopped
 12 sprigs fresh parsley chopped
 8 whole cloves(optional)
 4 bay leaves
¼ cup tomato sauce (or more)
 5 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt broth
 2 tablespoons all purpose flour


Rinse and pat dry the oxtails. 
Dip in seasoned flour.  Salt and Pepper.
Heat oil in heavy large pan over high heat. 

Add  oxtails to pan and cook until brown on all sides, about 12 min.
Transfer oxtails to a platter. Cover.
Add celery, carrots, onion and garlic to same oil in pot and sauté until golden brown, about 8 minutes.
Add wine, tomato sauce, thyme, parsley, cloves and bay leaves.

Put in the vegetable mixture in bottom.
Arrange oxtails over vegetables.
Add stock.  Put on high for an hour.  Reduce heat.
Simmer until meat is very tender, about 2 hours or more.

Remove oxtails from cooking liquid. Cover oxtails with foil or lid.
Cool liquid. Skim fat from surface of liquid and reserve. ( I threw it out.)

Return liquid to a pot on the stove. 
Boil until liquid is reduced by half, about 15 minutes or more.
Strain cooking liquid. (I didn’t.)  
We liked it fine with the veggies in it. Lumpy and delicious.

Simmer until sauce thickens enough to coat back of spoon and is reduced to 2 cups, stirring frequently, maybe another 15 to 30 minutes.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Return oxtails to sauce, serve or cover and refrigerate.)

Rewarm oxtails in sauce over low heat. 
Serve over mashed potatoes or whatever.

Note:  The flavors are even better the second day.  Good to make the night before, I think.

Monday, October 26, 2009


2 lb. thawed hash browns (any frozen brand)
1 can cream of chicken soup (low fat)

1 pt. sour cream  (fat free)  or yogurt
1/2 c. chopped onion (green onion tops add color)
1 tsp. pepper
6 oz. shredded Cheddar cheese 
   (low fat) or cheese of choice 
   (some Pepper Jack worked well with cheddar)
½ butter  (optional)

1/4 c. melted butter
2 c. mashed corn flakes (I did not use all of it)
Mix soup and sour cream together.  Heat soup so its warm and blends well.
Add mixture to hash browns and mix.
Pour into buttered 9x11 dish.

Sprinkle topping over top.
Bake uncovered at 370 degrees for 45 minutes or until bubbly.

I cooked at 370 degrees instead of the traditional 350 which worked well for me.
It took all of an hour to get it bubbly.

A definite candidate for a repeat.  It mixes up easy. 
Great for a picnic too.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Panattone Bread Pudding

A little history of the bread/cake dessert.  

In the early 20th century, two Milanese bakers began to produce Panettone in large quantities, In 1919 Angelo Motta started producing his brand of cakes. He made it in its tall domed shape by making the dough rise three times. At the end of World War II, panettone became the leading Christmas sweet in Italy. It usually contains dried citrus, raisins and other candied fruits.
Well that was a disaster tonight. I always heard how good it was. If you do not like the citrus flavor in fruit cake or the Italian Panatone breads, you will not like this one either.

I usually make a wonderful bread pudding from the Silver Palette Cookbook. I just had to try this recipe. Mistake!!!

Never again. Not even worth a second try. Its right up there with the Alton Brown's Mac and Cheese recipe. Both saw the inside of the garbage can. Yes, that bad.

I had one success this week with the Paula Deen's chicken breast, swiss cheese and white wine. It was excellent.

One out of three is probably normal for 3 first time recipes.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Last month I ordered a cookbook through Amazon. It was with a private seller and it was reasonable. The book is The Art of Sicilian Cooking. I have a post just on my review of this book. The book I ordered never arrived. I wrote the seller. She assured me that the book was shipped in September.

I checked on Amazon and it was due to me by Oct. 20, at the latest.  I found it odd the seller immediately refunded my money. I didn't even ask for a refund. I was concerned she was going to have a loss on this item. I told her I would wait until the 20th just in case it showed up before I found another copy to order.

Here is the kicker. She told me she had no other copy in her stock. I looked on line. She has two listed at over $100 each. The copy I paid for was under $25.

Now, do you think my copy went up to $100 and was never shipped off to me in the first place?  I wonder. I looked all over the net and they are not available right now for anything less than $100.

I have my money back but no book. I do know that things change on pricing all the time. I can check back in a month or so, and cheaper copies will be back for sale. One must be patient.

Anyone have this type of experience with used books before?

Oct. 26, 2009.  I found another copy for $7 on Amazon.  Yes, and I bought it and requested routing and tracking information.  It was cheaper than the one I never received.  Lets hope it gets to me.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I went up with friends and we saw "Wicked" at the Orpheum Theater on Market.  Had lunch in the really super food court in front of Bloomingdales. I wish we had a food court like this.  Wonderful food. Cream Puffs to die for too. The play "Wicked" was okay. NOT great. No reason to buy the CD. Costumes  and actors were excellent. I just think the play was weak.  Then we came back on Sunday into the pier area to see the Blue Angels fly over and the Columbus Day Parade.
Had a really nice time and ate lunch on the wharf. It was cold and over cast. We didn't see the sun until we hit Morgan Hill driving down 101 to check out the Gilroy Outlets. I found a cookbook I wanted (I know you are totally surprised I don't already have it) so I was happy. Parking was expensive.  $21 on Saturday when we saw the play.  $28 on Sunday at Pier 39 where we parked.

Do bring money if you come to San Francisco.  Or ride in on the Bart.  Ground transportation is good.  Of course, riding a bus is its own special entertainment.  You never know what you will see.


I was watching Alton Brown make a recipe for Mac and Cheese on the Food Network when he mentioned a particular type of breadcrumbs. I made his recipe using regular bread crumbs and was really disappointed. The breadcrumb topping was awful; too dense with no real taste. So, of course, I went shopping to find the Panko Bread Crumbs he used. I knew nothing about them but I soon found out. I bought two different brands to try. Here is the scoop.

Panko is the Japanese word meaning "bread crumbs or child or bread". They are made from the soft, tender centers of bread instead of the crust. They supposedly form a lighter texture and are less dense. They are now popular with chefs everywhere. I am withholding my opinion until I try them.

I plan to make my next batch of Sicilian meatballs with them. I will report the results. It must be a cross between using fresh broken up pieces of bread and regular bread crumbs.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Paula Deen's Recipe off the Food network  

Lady and Son's Chicken in Wine Sauce

I made this recipe last night.  Its very easy and contains basic items you may already have on hand.
Chicken breasts, skinless and boneless. (You could probably do bone in and it would be fine.)
Cream of chicken soup       Salt and pepper       Swiss cheese slices        white wine        butter        bread stuffing mix (small amount worked well)
NOT a hard one to do.  I made it and kept close to exactly how she made it.  I might have been a little light on the swiss cheese. I used 2% and lessened the butter since she LOVES butter. Can't blame her there.
A suggestion is to heat the SOUP in a sauce pan. Add the wine and THE CHEESE.  I say this because when you layer the cheese slices on top of the chicken, you can't really judge how the sauce will taste.  Too cheesy?  Not enough?
Next time I will melt the cheese and taste test it.
GO LIGHT ON THE BREADCRUMBS. Too much is really bad with bread crumbs.
A great recipe I will do again. It was about 15 minutes of prep. Baked unattended by me for 45 minutes I think. Perfect timing. Yes, I know its not Italian.

1. I will place some asparagus or artichoke hearts around the chicken. That would be my version. I am going to try it that way instead of cooking the vegetable separately.
2. It was short on color. Maybe a little parsley in the sauce? I think green is the key here. So what goes good with chicken and swiss cheese? Not sure yet what I would do.
Its such a simple basic idea, you can really add things to it to jazz it up if you like.

It keeps well in the frig and tastes great the second day.  So its a good make ahead recipe for a party or pot luck.
If you make it, I would appreciate any feedback.
                  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
PS: I found many versions of this recipe on a Google search.  The best was this:
pound flat each chicken breast and wrap a swiss cheese slice around a cooked asparagus spear. Then wrap the breast around that and placed it along with others in a casserole and used the sauce.  Its okay.  Takes longer in the oven.  Also, harder to cut with a fork.  You need a knife for sure if you do it. I liked the original version with the flat chicken breast best.