This week we have chosen some of our favorite recipes from the year just past. It was difficult to choose what to include. Some were chosen because of their ease and/or usefulness, some because of fabulous results, and some just because.
First, a quick look at the ads. There are a couple of key deals from the stores you might want to know about:
Frys: $2.97 boneless chuck roast; 5 lbs. of Halo oranges for $3.77. On Friday and Saturday they'll have Hillshire Farm lunch meats for $1.99 and Yuban Coffee for $3.99
Safeway: Some really good digital coupons here - $.49 for a dozen eggs (limit 2); Cheese for $.99 as an example.
Sprouts: Offers red, seedless grapes for $.77 lb.; Boneless, skinless Chicken breasts for $1.77 lb and 'healthy fats' ie: avocado oil, olive oil for 25% off.
2018 Recipes of the Year!
From our 12/26 column, the humble Brussels Sprout—cooked to perfection. Consider adding sautéed sliced mushrooms. For a vegetarian version, leave out the bacon (but it won’t be nearly as good.)
From October 18—Hasselback Potatoes. This spectacular looking baked potato will amaze your family and friends. Except for the slicing, which requires a steady hand and a sharp knife, this is an easy dish to prepare.
Hasselback Baked Potatoes
Add a sprig of rosemary to the oil if you can..
Here’s something to warm your bones on these chilly days. From October 10.
French Hot Chocolate
Try a couple Tablespoons of Hazelnut Liqueur instead of Vanilla. WOW!
Apples are a part of the fall harvest bounty. Here is a way to make a traditional and easy apple dessert. If you can use Honeycrisp or Snapdragon. I always use a little cardamom with apple dishes.
Here is one of the most useful dishes I’ve found. It was devised by a woman I met in North Carolina who had a big garden on her farm. She wanted to use some of the abundance of squash and tomatoes. She varied the ingredients depending on the garden harvest. She had never bothered to write it down—it was just “the squash dish.”
If you are using a vegetable that will take longer to cook than squash, either put it in first or pre cook it. The ingredients can be varied endlessly, use whatever you have. The only essentials are summer squashes (zucchini, yellow, Mexican grey etc.), tomatoes (any kind) and fresh basil (even here you could use fresh oregano or thyme or even maybe dill.) This recipe is a basic version, change it as you wish.
If any is left—serve it cold for lunch—yum.
You will need a large skillet or chicken fryer with a lid.
Several strips bacon, cooked, 2 Tablespoons grease reserved (optional), if you’re not serving any vegetarians it’s a good way to start.
2 Tablespoons oil (olive or other.) Use oil if bacon is not appropriate.
2 medium onions sliced thin
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely minced, grated, or crushed in a press
2 Tablespoons white wine or Sherry (optional)
6 cups mixed summer squash, diced
1/2 to 1 cup green beans, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
3 Roma tomatoes rough chopped, or other tomatoes to equal 2 cups
1/3 cup roughly torn basil leaves, plus other fresh herbs at your whim
salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
If using optional bacon, cook that first, reserving 2 T grease and breaking the strips into large pieces (not “bits”).
Heat oil/grease over medium low heat. Add onions and about 1/4 teaspoon salt, stir well, cover, cook on medium/low heat until soft and translucent, stirring frequently.
While cooking onions prepare the rest of the ingredients. Squash should be halved or quartered lengthwise, then sliced evenly.
When onions are done, push them to the side, add garlic, let cook a while (maybe 3-4 minutes) until the garlic is fragrant. Now stir onions and garlic together, add wine (if using), cook, stirring, till wine is mostly cooked away.
Add squash, green beans and tomatoes. Increase heat to med/high. Stir well. Cover and cook until squash is near your desired state of doneness. Keep stirring from time to time.
Now uncover, raise heat to high, and cook stirring constantly until most of the liquid is gone. There should be a little sauce, but it must not be soupy.
Taste for salt and pepper.
Garnish with bacon, parmesan cheese, toasted nuts, or whatever else strikes your fancy.
A composed salad is a nice thing to set on your lunch table or have for dinner. If you adopt an assembly line technique it needn’t take too long to put together, even if you need quite a few. Just prepare all the items first, then go down the line adding each ingredient.
Here are two variations. Did you know that The French Chef with Julia Child is mostly available on You Tube? After she watched the show on Salad Niciose my Mom presented us with composed salads about once or twice a month. She liked it because you could leave out the tomatoes for the one picky child and the asparagus for the other one. No waste.
An original French Chef episode
Endless variations are possible, add some meat or beans to up the protein.
Whole chickens can be bought on sale around $.89 to $.99 quite regularly. This recipe has the advantage of being able to vary the seasonings so it doesn’t always taste the same. It’s nice to come home to a hot meal without heating up the kitchen or watching over the process. Go Slow Cookers.
Slow Cooker Roast Whole Chicken
Try this amazing dessert some weekend. It’s not that it takes so long, it’s that there are so many times you need to add a new ingredient or layer and then freeze for 2-3 hours.
Mud Pie/Ice Cream Pie
In 2018 we discovered the Instant Pot. Here is the best recipe so far. Be sure to follow the directions for de-watering the squash or your lasagne will be wet and sloppy, but still tasty.
Recipe: Lynne’s Instant Pot Zucchini Lasagna Hack
First, a disclaimer: I apologize to any passionate Italian cooks out there, such as those gathering on the Italians Mad at Food twitter page (caution, language can be rough, but content is hilarious). I am in no way representing this as a genuine Italian dish.
Let’s get started. I think of it as a formula. Basically, I’m hacking lasagna:
When I make this, it’s different every time. I don’t really measure anything, I just toss in a bit of this and a bit of that. It’s a great recipe for using miscellaneous scraps in the refrigerator. It’s one of my main go-to derivative meals.
For example, one time, I used some pot roast I had remaining from the night before. Another time, I used turkey and yet another time, I used mushrooms for a vegetarian version. As for cheese? Whatever is in your fridge, although mozzarella is pretty much a must-do. But, feel free to add cheddar, provolone, muenster, parmesan. For the best flavor, use freshly grated cheeses, even parmesan.
Sauces can be a lot of fun. You can make your own, buy some at the store (please, get something delicious) maybe even add some wine to it if you like.
For easy preparation, get all your ingredients prepared in advance: Slice the zucchinis; cut, chop and shred the stuff layer ingredients; prepare your sauce; mix your ricotta, shred your cheeses. Then you simply have to layer it together.
To make this in the Instant Pot, it’s best to get a 6 or 7" springform pan. Even if it’s non-stick, I use a vegetable spray anyway. Note: if you put in a thin layer of sauce at the bottom of a springform pan, it might leak a bit. And because I’m using a springform pan, I’m not able to fit in more than two sets of layers. You may be able to do better.
Noodle Layer: 1 medium size zucchini (you can use real pasta if you like - our family is going low-carb for a while)
Stuff Layer: Meat of choice and/or mushrooms and other vegetables
Ricotta Mix Layer: 16 oz. Ricotta cheese + 1 egg + 2 cloves garlic + fresh herbs such as rosemary, basil, thyme (Note: If I am cooking in a oven, I may use 2 eggs.)
Grated Cheese Layer: Mozz, cheddar, jack, provolone, whatever you like. A bit of parmesan is delicious, too.
Sauce: You can use a red sauce or a white sauce. It’s up to you, and the other ingredients may make a difference, too. As an example, here’s a recipe for a mushroom and spinach lasagna with white sauce.
- 1. Slice the zucchini lengthwise - using a mandolinmakes it easier and produces even slices. (I purchased my mandolin just for this purpose.) Lay the zucchini slices on paper towels, if you want, you can sprinkle with a little salt, which will draw out more of the liquid. Place another layer of paper towels over the zucchini, press to absorb the natural liquid. Set aside. (If possible, slice the zucchini a day before, wrap it in paper towels, put it in a plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.)
- 2. Mix up the ricotta cheese combination - I find that a food processor makes this fast & easy.
Assemble - see diagram above:
First place a layer of zucchini in the bottom of the springform pan.
Then place a layer of the meat, veggies or mushrooms or all three!
Spoon half of the ricotta cheese mixture in next
Spoon the spaghetti sauce over the ricotta cheese
Sprinkle with grated cheeses
Repeat the layers. Finally, pile (and I really do mean 'pile') the top full of cheese.
Pour about a cup of water into the bottom of the Instant Pot. Cover the springform pan with foil. (Hint: Spray the foil with vegetable spray before putting it over the pan.) Place the springform pan on the trivet, and drop it into the instant pot.
Lock the lid of the Instant Pot down. Using the manual button, set it for 20 minutes.
When it’s done, let it release its pressure naturally. You can serve it hot, or refrigerate it and serve it later. It reheats nicely in the microwave.
Another discovery from 2018 that deserves to continue on is the Mushroom Burger
A really good complete technique. Sub any hot sauce for Sriracha.
This is one of my favorite salad discoveries of 2018. I’ve served it several times now, with grapefruit and a mixture of romaine and butter lettuces, with a grapefruit, a blood orange and a Cara Care orange, and a mix of romaine and baby spinach, with a grapefruit and two navel oranges and a mix of butter and green leaf. lettuce. The butter lettuce seems to go especially well with the citrus. I did make a salad dressing with the ingredients from the video, but any bottled citrus type dressing with some honey would also be good.
I make mine prettier by putting the lettuce in a wide shallow bowl, tossing it with a little dressing, then arranging the citrus segments and avocado slices in a nice pattern on the top.
Grapefruit and Avocado Salad