thinking about pancakes (and then…)

pancakesI was thinking about pancakes recently.

We have an electric waffle iron and we make waffles for breakfast periodically. I have never really made pancakes, however. I thought that would be fun, but I didn’t want to buy an electric pancake grill when we had the electric waffle iron. I thought a stovetop grill would be a good idea so I checked with Terry. She agreed, but for a different reason. She had been looking at them and thought it would be great to grill chicken, fish, and beef inside when it was too cold, too wet, or even too hot outside.

I turned to Amazon (of course) and found an economical reversible grill thatburgers was just about the right size for our stove, and much less expensive than the ones that were a bit larger and would have probably been too big for our stove anyway. I ordered it.

I was a bit concerned about the pancake side of things (pun intended) as one of the Amazon reviews said the flat side was rough. I made pancakes the day after the grill arrived, however, and I was absolutely delighted with the result. That evening I made hamburgers on the side with ridges and they were marvelous as well.

The grill is cast iron, so with proper care it will last forever. It is a bit hard to clean, as is most cast iron, but for the cooking that we can do on the grill it is well worth the effort.

We made a great addition to our kitchen at a very reasonable price.

a tortilla problem solved, it seems

I’ve written here about buying a tortilla press and making my own tortillas. I have written about my struggles in getting things right. And I have never been totally satisfied. One of my problems was when we would make fajitas (or soft tacos, depending on your perspective) the tortillas would split.

masa packageWhen I bought masa I would always buy Bob’s Red Mill. The company is known for its quality, and I thought it a good choice. The last time I was planning on making tortillas, however, I was shopping at Sprouts. They carry the Bob’s Red Mill brand, but not the masa. They did have a brand called Gold Mine, so I bought that. The Gold Mine brand looked smoother and less grainy than the Bob’s.

When I went to make the wet masa mixture (I dive in with my food handling gloves) it definitely felt smoother and less grainy. I started to make the tortillas and I had a mess. They kept falling apart. But I knew what the problem was: too much water. I asked Terry to add more dry masa to the bowl. (Once again I was wearing food handling gloves and my hands were covered with the masa mix.) That did it. Terry and I got our tortilla production line going.

When we sat down to eat and I put the beef and toppings on the tortilla, folded it and began to eat there was no split! Wow. And that held true for two more tortillas.

I never thought that the brand of masa would make a difference, but it did. Bob’s Red Mill has a great reputation, mostly well-deserved, but it seems their masa is not the best choice for making tortillas. I’m delighted to have found Gold Mine which gives me the result I am looking for.

and now, interesting lunches

Lunch around here has been a rather boring affair except for those times when we go out to eat. Often I’ll heat up a frozen meal. Terry will open a can of soup. Sometimes we’ll make sandwiches using deli meat from Sprouts. Really pretty pedestrian.

paniniI was thinking about this when my dad asked for the second time what we wanted for Christmas. I don’t recall what jogged the thought, but it occurred to me that a Panini press would be really nice. I checked with Terry and she agreed. I looked on Amazon and found the Hamilton Beach 25460A Panini Press. It’s not expensive and it is quite compact (something that matters in our kitchen). I passed that information on to my dad.

Dad is really great when it comes to follow-through on Christmas presents. That is exactly what we got for Christmas. On the 26th I headed straight over to Sprouts (carrying a gift card from my brother and sister-in-law) and bought a bunch of deli meat along with a small loaf of sourdough bread. There was also that bottle of Sriracha mayonnaise that looked so inviting.

Terry and I got creative and we were both pleased with the outcome. I’m not sure why the same ingredients cold or heated in the toaster oven are so everyday but become transformed into such a tasty delight when made in the Panini press.

But they do.

Add to that the fact that my brother and sister-in-law gave us a copy of The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook, which is full of tempting and mouthwatering recipes, many of which scream, “It’s not just for lunch!”

Much to learn. Much to explore. Much to enjoy.

chicken with romesco sauce

chicken with romesco sauceI was having a hankering for Valerie Bertinelli’s Romesco sauce. It consists of almonds, garlic, smoked paprika, a jar of roasted red pepper, and sherry vinegar.

The original recipe was for grilled shrimp, but we had just had shrimp the previous Saturday, so I made it with chicken instead. I cooked the chicken in the skillet with Penzeys 33rd and Galena seasoning. For the Romesco sauce we had some leftover pine nuts in the pantry which I threw in. Not sure I’d do it again, but it made for an interesting variation.

Overall, a nice Saturday dinner.

my recipe software dilemma

I have been using the Living Cookbook recipe software for some years now. When I was first thinking about computerizing my recipes the most popular recipe software was MasterCook, But at the time it was between owners and not supported, so I went with Living Cookbook. Now the opposite is the case.

I really like Living Cookbook. I like the format the program uses to print out the recipes and I like the way I can search on any number of criteria. However, Living Cookbook hasn’t issued an update since 2014 when it released Living Cookbook 2015. I would periodically check the web site to see if there were any updates, but there were none. Then the web site was gone.

I worry about the accessibility of my data should something happen to the software or should my laptop give it up. Based on suggestions from folks in my kitchen appliances and pressure cooker Yahoo groups, I downloaded trial versions of both Paprika and Cook’n. Both support the import of Living Cookbook data, but I didn’t like the look and feel of either and I didn’t like the format of either for printing recipes. That leaves MasterCook, which does not provide a trial version, but does seem to have a pretty straightforward user interface.

Really, I don’t want to spend the money for a new program when I like Living Cookbook so much. But the question, again is what about the accessibility of my data in the event of a problem? MasterCook allows you to import a Living Cookbook database by using a third-party program called cb2cb (that is CookBook to Cookbook). I can export my Living Cookbook database to an .fdx or .fdxz format and use cb2cb to convert it to the latest MasterCook .mz2 format.

So here’s my plan. I’m going to keep using Living Cookbook, but whenever I add a recipe I will export .fdx and fdxz files from my laptop to my desktop. That way, if something goes south I can buy MasterCook and still have all of my recipes. Not optimal but workable.

But Living Cookbook, did you have to leave without saying goodbye?

lemony Greek chicken soup

Terry and I first discovered Greek lemon soup at a local restaurant in Gilroy shortly after we moved there. We thoroughly enjoyed it, but it’s not a soup you come across every day. So when Terry suggested making the soup for a Sunday dinner I was more than agreeable.

Greek chicken soupI printed out three recipes, each somewhat different from the other. Terry selected a recipe from Cooking Light, lemony Greek chicken soup. I left it to her to do the cooking since she knew what she wanted.

She followed the recipe pretty closely. The recipe included carrots, spinach, orzo, red pepper, and stock. I bought a package of cooked pollo asado from the refrigerator case for the chicken. I thought the result was quite tasty. Terry found it a bit too thick for what she wanted. We’ll try another recipe for a more broth-like consistency, but this one held up quite nicely in its own right.

stuffed chicken breasts

stuffed chicken breastI don’t give enough attention here in my blog to Terry’s cooking. Granted, she was not doing all that much cooking, first while she was working when I was at home trying to make my freelance business work, and then while recovering from knee replacement surgery. But when she cooks she does a superb job.

She recently made her stuffed chicken breasts. She used the thin scaloppine-style chicken breasts which she seasoned with Penzeys Arizona Dreaming seasoning. She rolled them up with spinach and baked them in the oven. She then added spaghetti sauce and on top of that Provolone cheese, putting the chicken back in the oven to melt the cheese.

Quite the delicious Saturday dinner!