The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

On The Table

January 23, 2013

Cheryle Finley: Cookbook's creativity sets it apart

JOPLIN, Mo. — My dear neighbor, Ruth Sneed, received “The Looneyspoons Collections” cookbook for Christmas and was kind enough to let me borrow it for a few days. I borrowed it just long enough to realize that I have to own one this book.

With 365 healthy recipes, the book is worthy of being in my collection. Put together by sisters Janet and Greta Podleski, their mother, Alfreda, might just be correct — though admittedly prejudiced — when she raves that it’s the best cookbook ever written.

With sections named “Come On Get Appy” for appetizers, “Ladle Gaga” for soups and “Bring Home the Bakin’” for oven tempters, there’s a smile per page and often an out-loud laugh. Just reading the recipe names is an adventure.

The book is filled with trivia tidbits. Did you know that purist Italian chefs believe bell peppers, pepperoni and chicken should never appear on authentic Italian pizza? Or that the No.1 pizza topping in Australia and Chile, respectively, is eggs and mussels?

There are recipe tips, nutrition nuggets and silly jokes, too. Did you hear about the dog that ate a pound of garlic? His bark was worse than his bite.

The recipes in this book are right up my alley. I could spend hours reading, laughing and learning from this book, the first of three by the Podleski sisters.

What do you look for when spending money on a cookbook? My favorites include project graduation and church cookbooks. They always contain tried and true family recipes that aren’t fussy and don’t call for fancy ingredients. They are always worth the money, which usually goes to a worthy cause, but they often don’t list the nutritional information that many have become accustomed to seeing in a cookbook.

Maybe you’re looking for healthy recipes, or perhaps you’re searching for easy meals that take 30 minutes or less.

Looking for dishes with five ingredients or less? There are books for that. Slow-cooked meals, desserts, chocolate, vegetarian dishes, parties, special occasions — these are all subjects for which people have created cookbooks.

We all use different criteria when seeking the perfect cookbook for ourselves. So, what if you are purchasing a cookbook for someone else? It helps if that person is a relative or good friend, or if you have at least eaten at the person’s home before.

Maybe you’re shopping for someone who likes to grow her own vegetables. Maybe the person is a diabetic or needs gluten-free recipes. Does she use her slow cooker five nights a week? Maybe she eats dessert before her meal to make sure she has room for it. Maybe she likes books with pictures so she knows what a dish is supposed to look like, or maybe pictures only make her feel bad when she can’t duplicate them.

The website cheaphealthygood.com recommends purchasing cookbooks that have been recommended to you. “Quick Dinners for Dummies” isn’t appropriate for grandma. Don’t be swayed by a celebrity name or gimmick that will be gone in a flash. And speaking of flash, a flashy cover might be concealing the best recipes ever — or maybe it’s a fancy way of hiding recipes that would never be tried.

Unless recommended by a good friend, steer clear of diet cookbooks as gifts. Whether buying one for yourself or someone else, take your time and try to pick up a cookbook that you think will be used often.

A couple of quick tips from tipnut.com:

• Freeze lemon wedges, then put them in your iced or hot tea as needed. Freezing them and using only the cut portion leaves no waste.

• Making meatballs but don’t have an ice cream scoop for measuring uniform amounts? Roll the meat mixture into a log and cut even portions so each meatball will be the same size when you roll them up.

I had fun picking today’s recipes from “The Looneyspoons Collection.” From the vegetable section, which included such dishes as “The Rice is Right” and “Darth Tater,” comes “Glazed and Confused Carrots.” For the main course, I perused recipes that included  “Jellystone Pork,” “Fee Fie Faux Fried Chicken” and “Jurassic Pork Roast” before settling on the “Happily Ever Apple Pork Chops.” Apple butter sets this recipe apart from the others.

With dessert choices such as “Bonbon Jovi” and “A Bundt in the Oven,” I chose “Cookies for Rookies.” It’s super-easy and chock-full of goodies. You might want to double the recipe, because I fear 24 cookies just won’t be enough.

Wishing you a wonderful week and happy eating!

‘Glazed and Confused Carrots’

1 pound baby carrots

3 tablespoons peach or apricot jam

1 teaspoon each grated orange zest and Dijon mustard

1⁄4 teaspoon each dried thyme and salt

Steam or boil carrots until tender. While carrots are cooking, combine jam, orange zest, mustard and thyme in a small pot or skillet. Cook and stir over medium heat until jam has melted, about 2 minutes. Toss hot, cooked carrots with glaze and salt. Serve immediately. Makes 4 servings.

‘Happily Ever Apple Pork Chops’

2 teaspoons olive oil

6 boneless pork loin chops, trimmed

1 cup apple butter

2 tablespoons yellow mustard

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1⁄4 teaspoon each salt and pepper

3 cups peeled and sliced Golden Delicious apples

1⁄2 cup thinly sliced onions

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Heat oil in large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook chops until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine apple butter, mustard, cumin, salt and pepper. Spoon evenly over chops. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until chops are just slightly pink in the center and juices run clear, about 10 minutes. Remove chops from skillet and keep warm.

Add apples, onions and vinegar to sauce in skillet. Stir to coat apples and onions with sauce. Cover and cook over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until apples are softened and onions are tender. Spoon hot apple mixture over warm chops to serve. Makes 6 servings.

‘Cookies for Rookies’

11⁄4 cups flour

1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats (not instant)

1⁄2 teaspoon each baking soda and salt

3⁄4 cup packed brown sugar

1⁄3 cup butter, room temperature

1⁄3 cup light peanut butter

1 egg

1⁄3 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In another medium bowl, beat together brown sugar, butter, peanut butter and egg on low speed until well blended. Add dry ingredients and chocolate chops and mix well with wooden spoon. Dough will be stiff.

Roll dough into 11⁄2-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on sprayed cookie sheet. Flatten cookies to 1⁄4-inch with flour-dipped fork. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove immediately from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack. Store covered with plastic wrap or in airtight container. Makes 24 cookies.

Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.

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