Monday, November 15, 2010

Capitol Hill Cooks by Linda Bauer

Per Alison's request I am posting this review here. It originated on my other blog.

384 pages
Published August 16, 2010
by Taylor Trade Publishing
Lanham, MD

When I cook I tend to stick to family recipes or those found within the cookbooks I've been given, or even those posted online. It is definitely a rare occurrence for me to buy a cookbook, let alone borrow one from the library and an even more rare occurrence for me to post a review. But when I first learned of Capitol Hill Cooks: Recipes from the White House, Congress, And All of the Past Presidents I was immediately intrigued. A new release I requested a copy from my library and began flipping through. It is indeed an intriguing cookbook and as such I felt it deserved a little attention by way of a review.

At first glance I assumed Capitol Hill Cooks: Recipes from the White House, Congress and All of the Past Presidents to be a collection of recipes by cooks of the White House and Congress, but I was partly wrong. It is a collection of recipes, but they are from actual elected officials -- Senators, Representatives, and the President and his First Lady. In some ways this is even more exciting for those enthralled by American history and the Who's Who of Washington, DC politics both past and present. My only dispute with this title is that it claims to include recipes from "all of the former presidents" and that's not exactly true. I checked and at least one (Millard Filmore) does not have a recipe attributed to him. Still, the majority do and it's truly fascinating to see what were the favorite dishes of nearly all of our Commander in Chiefs.

Capitol Hill Cooks contains over 200 recipes from 49 states and 2 United States territories. The cookbook is divided by courses. First come the appetizers, then salads, next soups and stews, then side dishes, main dishes, meats, poultry and seafood, breads and finally cakes and cookies, pies and desserts and snacks and sauces. Last a special collection of "favorite dishes of the presidents."

As far as cooking goes, the recipes appear to be fairly simple and straight forward and, for the most part, do not require any special ingredients, though there are the few exceptions.

Personally, while I thought Capitol Hill Cooks was a really clever idea, it unfortunately did not contain enough recipes that I would use to justify my owning a copy. However, before the book is due back at the library I do plan to try a few recipes and I might end up changing my mind, we'll see. The top recipes to catch my eye include: Senator Wicker's (MS) Poppy Seed Chicken, Rep. Honda's (CA) Japanese Chicken Salad, Senator Boxer's (CA) Lemon Blueberry Muffins, and President Reagan's The Reagan Family Cranberry Sauce. And if I feel brave enough I might even try my hand at a favorite of President George Washington's -- Nelly Custis' recipe for Hoecakes or Thomas Jefferson's Chicken Fricassee.

Along with the tasty there are one or two recipes that made me grimace. Most notable was Rep. Coble's (NC) entry of Breakfast "Brains and Eggs," which do include the real thing: pork brains in gravy. (Ewww!!!) No thank you.

My only grievance with this cookbook is that it contains no pictures. I personally find myself more likely to try a recipe if I can see how the dish is appears. This cookbook could read more like a work of non-fiction if the reader doesn't mind reading all the measurements. Several of the recipes contain brief notes about the history of the dish or a the reason for its inclusion by the elected official. My favorite little tidbit was that the Eggnog recipe credited to George Washington was recently discovered written in Washington's own hand. How cool is that?

All in all, Capitol Hill Cooks is a fun cookbook for those looking for something historic this holiday season. Even though I don't plan to buy a copy I was glad that my library offers the option to preview this cookbook.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Taco Pasta

I my quest for recipes that use tomato paste, I came across this meal on the $5 Dinner Mom blog. I changed several things based on what I had in my pantry and my personal tastes. If you'd like to see the original recipe, go here. It got rave reviews from the men in our house, which means it's a keeper. :-)


1 lb. ground beef (I used precooked hamburger from my freezer)
1- 6 oz. can tomato paste
15 oz. can pinto beans (original recipe calls for kidney beans, I think pinto beans are more "mexican" and it's what I had on hand)
1 pgk. taco seasoning (orginal recipe uses various spices, this was easier for me)
2 cups uncooked rotini pasta (I used whole grain pasta)
1 c. frozen corn (I used the last of a bag of corn I had on hand. You could substitute 1 can of corn)

1-2 cups shredded cheese (optional, I skipped this)

1. In large skillet, brown ground beef. Drain and return to skillet. Skip this step if you are using pre-cooked hamburger.
2. Add tomato paste plus 2 cans worth of water to the ground beef. Stir until paste becomes tomato-y sauce. Add drained and rinsed beans. Add corn. Add taco seasoning. Stir through and let simmer for 4-5 minutes until hot.
3. Add 2 cups uncooked pasta with 2 cups of water to the meat mixture. Cover and cook over medium high heat for 10-12 minutes, or until pasta has cooked through. Stir a few times while pasta is cooking.
4. Top with cheese if desired.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Orange Chicken

I came up with this recipe and was told it was a Top Ten by my husband.

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 lb skinless, boneless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 C Blood Orange Jam (available at World Market)*
  • 2 T white wine (I use Charles Shaw chardonnay available at Trader Joes for 2.49) 
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
*Orange marmalade could work but I haven't tried it.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan and swirl to coat. Add chicken and cook 5 minutes on each side or until cooked thoroughly. Remove from pan. Add jam, wine, and garlic to pan; bring to a boil. Cook sauce 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and return chicken to pan, long enough to coat with sauce. Serve with rice. (I use brown basmati) Serves 4.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Making Ahead...Eating Healthier...Spending Less

I've really started getting into shopping sales and using coupons. Because I'm busy with working, babysitting and being a mom and wife, I limit myself to 2 stores within a few blocks of my house and one store by my work. I've also started to do small amounts of making things ahead. Here are some tips and ideas that have worked for me. (Now you know why I have lots of tomato paste! lol)

BEANS: I'm making more bean meals because they are cheap and a great source of protien instead of meat. Canned beans are cheap, but cooking up a pot of beans and freezing them in can size or 1 cup portions is even cheaper. (Canned beans run $0.50-$0.90/each, a bag of dried beans is usually around $1 and cooks up to 6-8 cans worth.) Just put a bag or two of beans in a large pot, soak overnight and simmer on low until the beans squish between your fingers when gently squeezed. Very easy to do!

Suggested bean meals: chili, bean soup, vegetarian taco salad, taco pasta, tacos or tostados.

POTATOES: I just bought two bags of potatoes today for $0.99 each. Store potatoes in a cool and dark location for use as is or shred potatoes and freeze to make your own hash browns.

Suggested potato meals: baked potato night, potato soup, breakfast casserole, breakfast skillets, cheesy potato casserole.

HAMBURGER: Whenever I buy hamburger these days, I either wait for a sale or buy a bulk package of it and brown the meat as soon as I get home. Freeze in approx. 1lb. portions.

Suggested hamburger meals: chili, enchiladas, spaghetti, hamburger stew, queso dip, pizza pasta casserole.

CHICKEN: Ditto the hamburger. I use my Walmart brand "George Foreman" grill took cook up the chicken. Dice and freeze in 1lb. portions. I want to try roasting the chicken in my stove, but have yet to do it.

Suggested chicken meals: enchilada soup, quesadillas, chicken tetrazzini, chicken noodle soup, white chili, colorful chicken casserole.

Please share your ideas, tips and recipes. I'm curious if anyone has tried cooking and freezing rice.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Ideas? Tomato Paste

Wow! I've been bad about posting here. Life has been busy and I've been distracted with spoiling my new niece. While my sister in law is on maternity leave, my schedule is different and I'm working at the office more. After Christmas, things will return to "normal". (Ha! If there is such a thing.)

While you are waiting on more recipes, does any one have ideas for using up tomato paste?