I have found a wonderful new/old cookbook! I think it was originally written in 1960 or so. The author, Peg Bracken, got sick of all the recipe books written by male chefs which deliriously caroled in incessant glee about how much fun it was for women to slave over a hot oven all day — and whose recipes invariably required struggling with 34 separate ingredients prepared in 6 different French-named ways with 17 separate and obscure spices while using every pot and pan in the house.

So she wrote a cook book titled The I Hate to Cook Book and filled it with her own wonderful blend of snark and very simple, fast recipes. I always grin when I read things like "Add the flour, salt, paprika, and mushrooms, stir, and let it cook 5 minutes while you light a cigarette and stare sullenly at the sink," or:

[P]ut light things on dark things (like Parmesan on spinach) and dark things on light things (like parsley on sole) and sprinkle paprika on practically everything within reach. Sometimes you end up with a dinner in which everything seems to be sprinkled with something, which gives a certain earnest look to the whole performance, but it still shows you're trying. (from "Skid Road Stroganoff," p. 48)

Bracken and her daughter apparently worked together  on the 50th anniversary edition, which I think is cool. They're still taking full advantage of cheerful snark and convenient time-savers like canned goods and dried soup packets — and coming up with really simple, fast, and tasty recipes. Yay, them! ;) Oh, I should also note the Skid Road Stroganoff was really good!

And now for something completely different…

Another very cool thing I'm trying: Zatarain's! Their boxed mixes are going to let me make some really tasty Cajun style (I think?) food. So far I've actually made the Gumbo, which was a very tasty and slightly spicy soup the day I made it. By the second day, though, it had thickened a bit and gained some real kick — yum! I made it with Andouille sausage and chunks of chicken, poured it over a scoop of rice, and served it with a salad and Jiffy cornbread muffins, which satisfied my insatiable Monday night gaming horde. ;)

Still on my "to try soon" list: the Gumbo with shrimp! I adore lovely fresh shrimp, but three out of five of my Monday night gaming horde can't stand them, so that will have to wait for another opportunity. I've also got plans for the boxes of Zatarain's mixes for jambalaya, red beans & rice, and dirty rice which are sitting in my pantry. I'll report more on those as I try them.

A casserole & some 4th of July celebrating

Just for fun this last Monday I set up dinner for the gaming horde like it was a picnic… and then I served an odd but interesting recipe and something cute and fun and silly: apple-cheese casserole and 4th of July dessert kabobs! ;) Here's the casserole recipe just as I found it, and some notes from me again:

Apple-cheese casserole

4 oz. margarine (equivalent to 1 stick butter)
1 egg
1 cup plain flour
12 oz. Velveeta cheese
8 sliced apples
some mushrooms
about a cup of sausage
4 little garlic squares

Fry up the sausages and mushrooms in the garlic.
Put apples in bottom of casserole.
Mix remaining ingredients and put on top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, then cover for 20 minutes and bake.

That's it! Needless to say, my charmingly experience-free cooking style caused a few interesting blunders results. :) For example, when the recipe directs you to mix remaining ingredients, I've deduced that they do not mean all in the same hot pan with the grilled sausages and mushrooms! That led to the egg, flour, and Velveeta mix starting to cook immediately. It wasn't bad, but it did tend to lump around each sausage chunk. ;)

So next time I try this — which will probably be a while, since I have lots of recipes to go through — I'll try layering more: first the apples, then some cheese, then the sausage, then the rest of the cheese, and over all that I'll pour the batter mix. Also, Velveeta comes in 16 oz. bricks, and two of the guys said they could barely identify the flavor of the cheese — so next time I'll just use the whole thing.

Ditto with the sausage: since I had no idea how much a cup of sausage was, I approximated using the number of ounces listed on the package compared to the number of ounces listed on the measuring cup. Found out later that a) one was dry weight and the other was liquid weight, and b) I only used three of the four beef kielbasa in the package, but was told that more of that tasty garlicy sausage would be lovely — so next time I'll use all of them too!

I guessed on which size dish to use — 13" by 9", which worked fine — and found that only 2 small and 2 large eating apples was plenty. Next time I'll try cooking apples too, for a slightly less sweet flavor. The flavor of the completed dish was… tasty but very different to what we're used to. Garlic and baked sweet apples with sausage is a curiously interesting sort of savory. Also on the plus side: between the brownies in the morning, and the garlic in the afternoon, the house smelled fantastic all day! :)

4th-of-July dessert kabobsThe dessert kabobs were based on this photo, which I found on-line but unfortunately didn't credit in my notes. Make your brownies early in the day so they can cool completely, and you'll end up with a dessert that's incredibly fast, fun for everyone to make, and tasty. Enjoy! ;)

 

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