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Sweet Potatoes with Brown Sugar Carrot Stuffing

by Jane Wangersky November 20th, 2014| Recipes, Simple Solutions
sweet potato (400x400)Sweet potatoes with marshmallow topping are a holiday food that cause just about as much disagreement as fruitcake – maybe more, because lots of people actually like this sweet potato dish. Others . . . well, I remember reading a Thanksgiving cookbook whose author had meant to put in a recipe for them, but, as she wrote, just couldn't bring herself to do it.

Still, for many families, sweet potatoes in some form are just part of Thanksgiving. And of course there are other ways to cook them. You can always just bake them like regular potatoes, but there are
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Cranberry-Ginger Relish

by Jane Wangersky November 13th, 2014| Recipes, Simple Solutions
cranberry relishAs Thanksgiving gets nearer (for those of you in the U.S., anyway -- in Canada, we had it last month, so you get the benefit of my recent experience), you probably know you’re expected to serve cranberries in some form. You may think your only choices are canned cranberry sauce, shaped exactly like the inside of the can, or homemade cranberry sauce, which you carefully concoct from fresh cranberries and boiling syrup. But there’s another option that’s fresh, homemade, and no-cook: Cranberry relish.

I discovered cranberry relish a few years ago while writing reviews of Thanksgiving cookbooks. You’ll find recipes
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Easy Stuffed Eggplant

by Jane Wangersky November 6th, 2014| Recipes, Simple Solutions
eggplantEggplant is one of those foods, like fish, that people think they don’t like, but it’s really got a lot going for it -- a mild taste that goes with countless other foods, a shape and texture that can be transformed into almost anything you want, a Mediterranean background, plenty of fiber, relatively short cooking time -- and, contrary to popular belief, you don’t really have to salt it or squeeze out the juices to make it palatable. With all this in mind, I hit on eggplant when I was looking for some fresh ingredient to bring
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Sugar and Smoke Ham

by Jane Wangersky October 30th, 2014| Simple Solutions
hamUsually, the only reason I buy cooked ham is to slice it up for sandwiches -- unsliced ham is half the price of sliced -- but the last time I went grocery shopping, bone-in cooked ham was on sale, so it was time to figure out how to turn it into a dinner. Actually, I had done that before with boneless ham, but always by cutting the ham into nice neat slices, or cubes to scatter over pasta, and browning it quickly. The bone was going to make that more difficult -- might as well just leave it in.

A
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Quick Beef Stroganoff — From Scratch

by Jane Wangersky October 23rd, 2014| Simple Solutions
file4531272158954Beef Stroganoff has taken lots of different forms over the past 150 years since the recipe was first published. The only constants have been -- obviously -- the beef (cubes, strips, even ground beef) and sour cream, whether just a little or a lot. Those are the two tastes everyone expects from a dish by this name.

Though you can make quick versions of beef Stroganoff from mushroom soup, or even, ahem, Hamburger Helper, this recipe is just as quick and much shorter on processed ingredients. (Yes, it uses powdered beef bouillon. If that bothers you, try using a few
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Pork Loin Filled with Apricot-Cranberry Stuffing

by BnB Finder October 21st, 2014| Best BnB Bites, Recipes
Pork LoinStuffing is not just for turkey, and it doesn't have to consist mainly of breadcrumbs. In this recipe, pork chops are stuffed with a sweet and tart fruit (and breadcrumb) filling that sets off their mild flavor. They're first browned for crispness, then baked to cook them through with a minimum of fuss. Meanwhile, you're making a simple sauce out of fresh ingredients to finish off the dish. Though this all takes preparation, it's worth it for a special occasion at home. From the Castle in the Country in Allegan, Michigan, a great place for a celebration
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Lemon Pepper Tuna Cakes

by Jane Wangersky October 16th, 2014| Recipes, Simple Solutions
file00041689699Canned tuna has a lowbrow reputation -- we think it's good mainly for quick lunches, especially to take to work or school, or maybe retro casseroles swimming in canned soup. But if you read Tin Fish Gourmet by Barbara-Jo McIntosh, you’ll see that tuna and other canned fish has way more potential. Here’s a simple dish I’ve been making for years; it varies according to what I’ve got in the house, but this version makes a nice end-of-summer supper.

If you like crab cakes, these are much more affordable. If you’re secretly craving something at the other end of the
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Seafood Gumbo

by BnB Finder October 14th, 2014| Best BnB Bites, Recipes
Seafood Gumbo - CopyGumbo is much more than soup, and this gumbo is special enough for a Sunday dinner, even if you're having guests. Shrimp, crab, and oysters come together in a thick, rich, spicy base. It will take patience, especially if you've never made roux (a flour-fat base for soup or sauce), but it's worth it. Unlike the usual lard-based Cajun roux, this one uses vegetable oil, which you're more likely to have on hand. It's from the Fuquay Mineral Spring Inn and Garden Bed & Breakfast in Wake County, North Carolina, a designated landmark convenient to Raleigh and Chapel Hill.

 

 

 

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Essential Chili: The 4 Things You Really Need

by Jane Wangersky October 9th, 2014| Recipes, Simple Solutions
chiliI’ve got several time-honored, long-cooking, big-batch chili recipes that use chunks of beef and about 10 kinds of spices. This isn’t one of them. But it’s quick and easy, it tastes good, and you can build on it till it’s almost like one of those more ambitious chilis.

Keeping it to four ingredients, I had to find the essence of chili. Having lived in Texas, I know some people will take issue with that essence containing beans rather than meat. If you feel this way, hey, use meat instead -- I’ll talk about that and other variations in just a
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Gourmet Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

by BnB Finder October 7th, 2014| Best BnB Bites, Recipes, Sandwiches
Gourmet PB&JIf you're wondering what can possibly be "gourmet" about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, just check out this recipe. It has a definite French feeling, between the French toast base and the Pinot grape jelly (Pinot Noir grapes are not just for wine making anymore).  The crunchy peanut butter is, granted, very North American, but you can always call it beurre d'arachide croquant, as one side of the label says here in Canada. This is one of many lunch dishes at Stone Chalet Bed and Breakfast Inn in Ann Arbor, MI, which offers many special amenities for business
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Simple Spicy Meat Loaf

by Jane Wangersky October 2nd, 2014| Recipes, Simple Solutions
meat loafLast spring, I wrote that everyone and his dog had their own ideas of what made a good meat loaf. My own family has several different ideas, and today I’m going to share one of them.

Early fall can be a tricky time to plan meals. You never know whether it’s going to be a burgers-in-the-backyard kind of day or a meat-roasting-in-the-oven kind of day. Plan on this dish and you’ll be ready for either. If it turns out warm and sunny, you can just buy some hamburger buns, make a salad, and grill the sausage patties on
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Mockaletta: A Stripped-Down Classic

by Jane Wangersky September 25th, 2014| Recipes, Simple Solutions
paninis-and-sandwichesA real muffaletta is one of those rare dishes whose taste is somehow way more than the combination of the tastes of the ingredients. I realized this the first time I tasted one in a little cafe in New Orleans, on my one visit there many years ago. Since that trip, I’ve got out my Cajun-Creole cookbook and made my own muffaletta from time to time, usually when I had to take something to a potluck. It’s been worth it -- those few times.

What exactly goes into a muffaletta? (Which you’ll see spelled countless different ways.) You start with
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