Jul 29, 2011

So how 'bout them recipes?

Last week, I test-drove several new recipes, most of which were from the Food Network.

And surprisingly, they were all pretty successful.  (My new recipe ventures are often trial-and-error.  Emphasis on error. But even with an error-strewn wake behind me, I still love plowing into new recipe terrain, especially when I'm tired of fixing the "same 'ol, same 'ol," as my nephews call their favorite foods.)

For starters last week, we had sweet and sour bean salad.  My only gripe about bean salads (not just this one) is that you wind up with a HUGE salad, especially when there are only a couple of us eating on it.  It keeps for several days, but who wants to eat the same salad for days on end?

When I make it again (and I will), I will use Catalina dressing and add a bit of cider vinegar to it in lieu of the dressing, which involved boiling apple cider vinegar, sugar, a can of tomato soup, salt and pepper, then mixing with oil.  The problem is, the recipe makes a LOT of dressing, even for four cans of beans.  Wayyyy too much dressing. And when I was mixing it up, I thought it smelled and tasted a lot like Catalina dressing. 

Sure enough, many homemade Catalina dressing recipes involve the same ingredients, with less vinegar.  Next time around, I'll use a cup (or so) of Catalina dressing with an added boost of vinegar and voila.  I'm also tempted to try this recipe with garbanzo beans instead of butter beans.  So yeah, it's a keeper, especially if I'm feeding a crowd.

The BLT pasta salad was splendiferous as-is. Wouldn't change a thing, except to cut it in half. That recipe makes 8 generous servings, not the 4 indicated.  Also, be sure you get the bacon really crisp.  I was in a hurry and my bacon was just this side of crispy.  It was good, but good crunchy bits would have held their own better.

The Stuffed Chicken Divan was good, but I read the reviews and modified it accordingly - Swiss cheese rather than Gruyere, double the cornstarch and I used half sherry and half white wine and tossed the remaining broccoli and cheese stuffing in the sauce.  My only recommendation is to ramp up the flavor of the stuffing. Not sure exactly what it needs, maybe onion or shallots as some reviews suggested, maybe something else.  A keeper.

Finally, I tried Paula Deen's Peach Cobbler.  It was good, but would have been better if I had paid more attention and remembered the cup of sugar in the dough batter.  And uhhhh....when she says put it in a 3-quart dish, she knows what she's talking about. (The oven needed cleaning anyway.)

I also revisited my own creamy dill cucumber salad from memory, adding some tomatoes for good measure.  Maybe it was the last-minute decision to add buttermilk, or the choice of Greek yogurt, but it was too tangy for my tastes.  We're going to have to take another stab at it, especially if oldest son keeps bringing me cucumbers that his neighbor gives to him.  And there's always fresh cucumber "bellyachers"  to use up the surplus.

I'm glad we took a detour last week through these new recipes, and I plan on taking several more scenic routes soon.    To paraphrase Paulo Coelho (don't feel bad - I didn't know who he was either):

"Life is too short, or too long to allow us the luxury of eating the same foods over and over again."

Happy culinary adventures!