Taking a Break . . .

Good Morning everyone!  Well, the last 2 times I tried to add a post here, I had trouble getting the pictures to load.  That difficulty, combined with the fact that I am constantly having trouble making time to add recipes here, has led me to decide to “hang it up” for now.  However, I decided to go ahead and leave the blog here, in case I should decide in the future to return.  In the meantime, I plan to simply add new recipes I try with my notes on any changes I’ve made to my Facebook page:  www.facebook.com/lynnettestestkitchen  See you there, and/or see you here sometime in the future 🙂


Better Than Olive Garden Garlic Butter Breadsticks

I am not a master bread baker.  I am not even an average bread baker.  I am a complete novice when it comes to bread baking, but I do hope to learn a few things as I experiment with recipes in my home kitchen.  This particular recipe looked and sounded good: Better Than Olive Garden Garlic Butter Breadsticks.  After all, the only reason anyone ever goes to Olive Garden is for the salad and breadsticks, right?  (Okay, so I’ve actually eaten meals there even after consuming large amounts of salad and breadsticks.)  But back to my test kitchen . . .

I forgot to pull an egg out of the refrigerator before I took the picture, but other than that and the water, here are the ingredients I used:  2014_0629June20140015  As usual, it’s all store-brand stuff 🙂  Then I went to start putting things together, and lo and behold I see the ingredient list calls for 3 t yeast.  Well, 3 t is equal to 1 T, so I got out the tablespoon to see how much yeast was in one packet:  2014_0629June20140019  I considered opening another packet, but decided not to.  This may have been a mistake . . .  I also wondered about just tossing everything into the mixer bowl.  Other bread recipes I’ve made instruct you to combine yeast, sugar and warm water and let it sit for a bit before combining with the rest of the ingredients.  I had already put all the sugar in the mixer bowl, though, but I did stir the yeast into the water and let it sit for a moment or two, all the while wondering if that was a good idea or not . . .

The recipe does warn that the dough will be “slightly sticky” and “won’t completely pull away from the side of the bowl”.   My results:  2014_0629June20140027  That was more than “slightly” sticky.  At this point I was really doubting any chance of success.

I forged ahead though, and left the dough to rise for an hour and a half.

BEFORE: 2014_0629June20140030  AFTER: 2014_0629June20140033  Bigger, but not exactly “risen”.   Ah, but it was a humid day out and the air conditioner was doing its best to make it not so inside the house.  Probably not the best day for bread baking, I think to myself.  But I’ve already started, so I must carry on!

I dutifully rolled out the dough, cut it into 24 sticks, and transferred those sticks to baking sheets.  It’s really hard to move sticky dough from one place to another:  2014_0629June20140036   I let those “bread twists” rise and I baked them.  But I had two baking sheets and the one with fewer on it looked done at 14 minutes:  2014_0629June20140039  The other breadsticks, though, looked like they could use another minute or two.  So, telling myself I’d pull those out “in just a minute” and that I had no need to reset the oven timer, I left them in.  When will I stop lying to myself about needing to set the oven timer for a minute?  Sure enough, I forgot until more than “a minute or two” had passed.  So when I pulled out the second sheet I had this:  2014_0629June20140042  A tad overdone, they were.  Even the better looking breadsticks were not what they should have been, but I’m chalking it up to “operator error” and not “faulty recipe”.  I need to try this one again one day.  And I will, because what I ended up with was edible, even if it wasn’t the result I was seeking.  Next time I will measure out more yeast and I will choose a less humid, sticky day.

Penne with Sausage and Escarole

I’ve still been going through my cookbooks in search of new recipes to try, and this one came from Emeril’s 20-40-60 book:  Penne with Sausage and Escarole.  Typically I find that whenever I follow a pasta recipe I end up with a dish that, to me and my husband, seems to have a ton of pasta with just a little meat/veggies/sauce tossed in.  This means that often I will only use half the pasta called for and keep the remaining ingredients the same:  2014_0626June20140004  Well, that wasn’t quite 1 1/2 pounds of sausage, but it was more than a pound.  I only used half that box of pasta, so I saved 50 ¢ and already have the base for another pasta meal sometime in the future.  I do admit to getting bored with prepping the escarole, LOL!  So I probably could have put more in there:  2014_0626June20140008  It tasted pretty good, though, and I was pleased with the resulting ratio of pasta to sausage.  I will be making myself a note in my cookbook to only use half the pasta, and one day I will return to this recipe.  I will, however, also have to note that my hubby found it a little spicy.  It wasn’t too spicy for him to eat and have leftovers for lunch the next day, but I’ll cut back on the crushed red pepper a bit for him next time so he’ll like it even better.  If you like really spicy foods, though, you should add more than called for.  I liked it just as prepared myself 🙂

Mahi Mahi Mucho Gusto Burritos

Last  night’s new dinner, cooked just for my husband, came from this book: 2014_0624June20140007  Whether Rachael Ray’s bubbly personality makes you smile or annoys you, she does create some good recipes.  Of all of hers I’ve tried, I can’t think of one we didn’t like.  There may have been one somewhere along the line that wasn’t up to par, but most are really good!  And so I’ve bought  many of her books (in spite of the repeat recipes you’ll find in some of them) and I keep going back to pick another recipe to sample.  This time it was “Mahi Mahi Mucho Gusto Burritos“.  (And I was happy to discover that someone else has already placed it online, so I could just link it for you instead of re-typing it 😀 )

I know many cooks out there insist upon using the finest of ingredients to get the best possible results, but I’m here for “the rest of us” – those of us without the financial resources or the time or inclination to seek out our foods from a variety of sources.  I’m here to show/tell you that “the rest of us” can still enjoy a fine meal, even if all we can get our hands on are the “lowly” store-brand products.  Here’s what I used for this recipe:  2014_0624June20140013  If you can get the fresh fish or simply prefer to do so, by all means, DO!  But if you live away from the sea and your local grocer doesn’t always have every variety of fish available fresh, the frozen works.  Really!  It DOES!  In fact, here’s what it looked like after I seasoned and cooked it:  2014_0624June20140017

Then there’s the homemade guacamole:  2014_0624June20140020  If you wanted to make it quicker or you’re not comfortable choosing a fresh avocado (which can be tricky until you’ve bought a few and figured out which are not ready, which are past their prime, and which are “just right”), I’m sure you could pick up some store-bought guacamole.

And here’s what the burrito looks like before it’s folded and rolled up:  2014_0624June20140023  My husband liked these really well, so I know I’ll be making them again sometime 🙂

Country-Fried Steak with White Gravy

This week I pulled Emeril’s 20-40-60 cookbook from one of my kitchen bookcases and perused it in search of a new recipe to try.  I came across one titled “Country-Fried Steak with White Gravy” that I had not yet marked with a rating and decided that’s what we’d have for dinner one evening.  I tried to Google the recipe so I could give you a link to it, but what came up was not what was in my book, so here you go:

8 oz. sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons Emeril’s Original Essence or Creole Seasoning
1 large egg
2 to 3 cups of milk, as needed
Four 6- to 8-ounce cube steaks
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying, as needed
1/2 cup minced yellow onion

1. Cook the bacon in a 12-inch saute pan over medium-high heat until just crisp, about 5  minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain, leaving the fat to cool in the pan.

2. Combine the 1 cup flour with 1 teaspoon of the Essence in a shallow bowl or pan.  Whisk the egg, 1/2 cup of the milk, and 1 teaspoon of Essence in another shallow bowl or pan.

3. Season the steaks all over with 1 1/4 teaspoons of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the black pepper.  Dredge the meat in the seasoned flour, then dip in the egg wash, letting the excess drip off, and then dredge in the flour a final time.  Set the steaks aside on a tray.

4. Pour the cooled bacon fat into a liquid measuring cup and add enough vegetable oil to measure 1/2 cup total.  Return the mixture to the sauté pan and heat over medium-high heat until it is hot but not smoking.  Carefully add 2 of the steaks and fry until golden, 3 minutes per side.  Transfer them to paper towels to drain.  Add the remaining 2 steaks to the pan, dipping them in flour one more time before frying if necessary, and cook in the same manner.  Transfer the steaks to paper towels.

5. Add the 1 1/2 tablespoon flour to the pan and cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute.  Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until softened, about 3 minutes.  Whisk in 1 1/2 cups of the milk, the remaining 1 teaspoon Essence, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.  Return the bacon to the pan and bring the gravy to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and there is no raw flour taste.  Add additional milk as necessary to achieve the desired consistency.

6. Serve the steaks with the hot gravy.


If you’ve read my previous posts, you probably suspect I did at least one thing differently.  Well, I did indeed do a few things differently.  And here are those “few things”:
– I used a different seasoning.  Not because I have anything against Emeril’s Essence, but because I am out and haven’t bought more.  I did have some “Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Blackened Redfish Magic” and subbed that in the recipe.  It tasted just fine 🙂
– I had a package of 6 cubed steaks.  I used them all and did not need to prepare extra egg wash and flour coating to do so (which may have had something to do with one of my next differences . . .).
– Instead of seasoning the steaks with salt and pepper first, I mixed the salt and pepper in with the flour coating mixture.  (I guess I’m just lazy 😛 )
– I did not coat the steaks in flour, then egg, then flour.  I did egg then flour, period.  This was an accident.  I simply missed that step.  I was pleased enough with the results, but when I make this again I will do the double coating of flour.
– This wasn’t different, just a note:  I did not need to add any more milk after the first cup and a half.  I liked the consistency and didn’t feel I needed more.
– I failed to take photos as I went along, so this time you’ll have to settle for one photo of the finished dish:  2014_0622June20140019  That’s just refrigerated mashed potatoes and frozen corn.  If you really want to “do it up right”, make homemade mashed potatoes and fresh corn on the cob 😀  But my husband and I were both very happy with our dinner, and that’s what matters!

BTW, I have tried some other recipes from this book and been well pleased with the results.  If you don’t have one, you might want to pick up a copy of your own:  2014_0622June20140021

Sloppy Joe Baked Potatoes

Back to Food Network magazine for last night’s dinner (October 2013 issue).  The photo with the Sloppy Joe Baked Potato recipe just looked scrumptious, so I decided to try it out.  Confession though: I had no idea what was meant by “sweet chili sauce” in the ingredient list.  I did not find anything at my grocery store that said “sweet chili sauce” on the label, and I had some plain ol’ “chili sauce”  (found in the condiment section of the store above the ketchup offerings) left from a previous recipe, so I used that:  2014_0620June20140001  I also chose to use beef instead of turkey.  I’ve never been a fan of ground turkey.  I’ve tried to like it.  I really have!  Apparently I haven’t run across the appropriate recipe(s) for it though, because I haven’t been thrilled with any I’ve tried.  So I pretty much gave up on it and get my turkey in the form of deli meat sandwiches and Thanksgiving turkeys 🙂

I don’t like to “bake” potatoes in the microwave either.  Unless you’re short on time, what’s wrong with tossing them in the oven for an hour?  They turn out better and it’s not labor-intensive to prick the potatoes with a fork, coat them with oil, sprinkle them with salt, and set them in the oven.  Then you’re free to go about preparing the rest of the meal while the potatoes cook.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am not a super-quick chopper.  I’m not slow as molasses at it, but I’m not “superman speedy” about it either.   So I warn you, this 30 minute meal takes some time to put together.  As in, more than 30 minutes, if you’re like me 😉  After about an hour, I ended up with this: 2014_0620June20140004

Would you believe that I, personally, found the sloppy joe sauce to be a tad too sweet? Yet my husband, who tends not to like things as sweet as I do, went back for more and made nary a complaint!

I really like the idea of the veggies included in there, but I think I’d either prefer just preparing Manwich or using the old recipe my mom taught me and throwing in those veggies.  Here’s that old homemade sloppy joe recipe, if you’re interested:

1 lb. ground beef
1 onion, chopped
3/4 t salt
2 T molasses
2 T prepared yellow mustard
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/8 t hot pepper sauce (Tabasco, Frank’s)
1/2 C ketchup

Brown ground beef and onion in skillet.  Drain off excess fat.  Add in remaining ingredients and heat through.

I also like to use that sloppy joe recipe as a hot dog topper, and surely a few carrots and celery thrown in would work just fine.  Don’t you think? 😀

Sausage and Peppers

Last night’s new recipe came from the January/February 2014 issue of Food Network Magazine.  The title of the recipe is Turkey Sausage and Peppers, but I chose not to use the turkey sausage.   It’s not that I don’t like the turkey sausage.  I’ve had it before and I like it just fine.  However, it usually costs more, and that is why I chose not to use it this time.  I wanted to save a couple of bucks:  2014_0619June20140010

And then I started out by ignoring the cooking instructions in step one.  The broiler and I are not the best of friends.  I am easily distracted and often called away from what I am doing by either a human child or a canine one.  The broiler burns things in a hurry, so I decided to boil those sausages instead.

Meanwhile, I prepared the peppers.  I did use dried rosemary instead of fresh, and when I do that (pretty much every time) I crush the rosemary using my mortar and pestle:  2014_0619June20140014  The other thing I did a little differently was omitting the water.  Since I used my mom’s home canned tomatoes, on which there is a lot of liquid, I drained some of it off and then added what was left in the jar.  That turned out to be quite a bit, and my sauce didn’t get thick at all, but the results were still good:  2014_0619June20140017  As you can see, I served this over rice.  I just felt that it needed to go with rice or pasta, though it would have tasted just fine without it 🙂