Sunday, May 30, 2010

Meal Plan 5/31-6/6

Betty Crapper has been bad, real bad. Thursday, Betty Crapper had ice cream for dinner. Not just any ice cream: Cold Stone Creamery's "All Lovin' No Oven." 

Ice cream for dinner is why Betty Crapper bought a tankini on Friday instead of a bikini.

Meal Plan

I'm trying out two new recipes this week: chicken enchiladas and corn soup. Hopefully the results won't end up as Betty Crapper Moments.

Monday: BBQ at the in-laws
Tuesday: chicken enchiladas with chips and homemade salsa
Wednesday: Baked Ziti with homemade bread
Thursday: Fresh corn soup topped with roasted corn guacamole
Friday: homemade pepperoni pizza and salad
Saturday: meatloaf and buttermilk mashed potatoes
Sunday: spaghetti, salad, bread

I reserve the right to make substitutions and deletions due to laziness.

Baking Wish List
(all homemade of course)

I really, really need to make those chocolate chip cookies already.
If you are in need of further inspiration, check out the weekly Menu Plan Monday post over at I'm an Organizing Junkie.  

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Homemade Ground Beef Tacos

Betty Crapper makes homemade tacos at least every other week. I love them with either shredded chicken or ground beef. Tuesday, I made tacos with homemade flour tortillas, salsa, guacamole, shredded sharp cheddar, fresh limes, and sour cream.

Homemade tacos are more time consuming than a stop at Taco Bell. Betty Crapper feels that time is worth it.

M's Ground Beef Tacos


2 1/2  tomatoes, diced
1/4 onion, diced
1 jalapeno, minced (optional)
1 tsp red wine vinegar
juice from 1/2 lime
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Mix above in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Betty Crapper adds a touch of honey if tomatoes are out of season and tasteless. Feel free to add a minced jalapeno if you dare.


1/2 tomato, diced
1/4 onion, diced
2 Haas Avocados
1 jalapeno, minced (optional)
1 tsp red wine vinegar
juice from 1/2 lime
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste

Halve avocados and remove the large seed. Score with knife and scoop out the good stuff. Lightly mix all ingredients in a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed. Press that plastic wrap right up to the guacamole to keep it nice and green. Betty Crapper also likes to leave the seeds in the bowl to keep the avocado from browning. She's not sure if the seed trick really works. 

Make tortilla dough and set aside.

Grate sharp cheddar cheese. Why cheddar? That's what I had. Betty Crapper promises cheese grated at home tastes better than store bought grated cheese with added anti-caking agents. Try it sometime.

Ground Beef

2 tsp canola oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb ground beef
4 oz tomato sauce
2 tsp dried cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Saute onion until soft, but not brown. Add garlic and saute about 30 seconds. Add meat and cook, breaking up large pieces, until browned. Add tomato sauce and spices. Lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Make your tortillas

Betty Crapper is looking to shake up her tacos. How do you build your tacos? Suggestions are much appreciated.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Raspberry Squares

Last Friday I came across the Raspberry Squares over at Tracey's Culinary Adventures. Betty Crapper drooled. 

I vowed to buy Raspberry preserves and indulge.  Betty Crapper is so glad she did. The raspberry squares were wonderful; not too sweet with a somewhat crunchy texture. Simply outstanding for very little work.

I followed the very easy Cooks Illustrated recipe posted by Tracey and used raspberry conserve instead of preserves. 

Betty Crapper is not sure what the difference is between conserve and preserves.

Maybe after she finishes the entire plate she'll figure it out. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Chicken Piccata

Giada's chicken piccata was incredibly quick and easy to make. The meal was prepped and on the table in about 30 minutes. It turned out quite tasty and was deemed worthy of an encore, with slight modification.

(Adapted from Giada de Laurentis's Everyday Italian)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved crosswise
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
All-purpose flour for dredging
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
1/4 cup drained capers, rinsed
2 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

This recipe is definitely not low fat. Yes, that is butter.

Salt and pepper your chicken. Dredge the chicken in flour to coat lightly. In a large saute pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter with the oil over medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook just until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate.


Now for my favorite part. Stand back. Add the broth, lemon juice, and capers to the same pan. Betty Crapper hates a face full of steam. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Return the chicken to the pan and simmer until just cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a platter. Whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter into the sauce. Pour the sauce over the chicken. Garnish with the parsley and serve.


We were not sold on capers. Hubby thought the dish would be excellent without capers. Betty Crapper is not sure. Does chicken piccata have to include capers? Maybe next time I'll only add half. What do you think?

White rice? Betty Crapper was raised in a Cuban household. Cuban's eat lots and lots of white rice. Betty Crapper had no pasta and served her Chicken Piccata with white rice. What would you serve chicken piccata with?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Meal Plan 5/24-5/30

Last week's meal plan, as predicted, was not followed precisely. Betty Crapper never made the chicken piccata or the chicken paella. Life happens and now I do not have to shop for two dinners.

Meal Plan

Monday: chicken piccata with white rice
Tuesday: ground beef tacos with homemade tortillas, salsa, and guacamole
Wednesday: chicken paella
Thursday: baked ziti, salad, and homemade bread
Friday: chicken with warm tomato-corn salad
Saturday: homemade pepperoni pizza and salad
Sunday: coffee spice-rubbed ribeyes with smoky tomato-red chile salsa

I reserve the right to make substitutions and deletions due to laziness.

Surfing food blogs has unintended repercussions. Betty Crapper finds herself craving an inordinate amount of sweets. Because last minute trips to the grocery store are no fun with a nine month old, a baking wish list for the week will now be included in my weekly meal plan. Why a wish list? Betty Crapper is not perfect, frequently procrastinates, and has a nine month old.

Baking Wish List
(all homemade of course)
If you are in need of further inspiration, check out the weekly Menu Plan Monday post over at I'm an Organizing Junkie.  

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cuban Coffee

That my friends is no ordinary coffee. It's café! 

Café makes Betty Crapper very happy and a much nicer person.  

Please do not speak to Betty Crapper until she has consumed her morning cafécito. 

Cuban coffee is very easy to make with a stove top Italian espresso maker (cafetera). Every grocery store in Miami sells these aluminum cafeteras very cheap, as in less than $10. 

Betty Crapper has two. If Betty Crapper's nine month old decided it was party time at 2:00 AM, the next morning Betty Crapper reaches for the big one.

Last night was a good night.

Cuban Coffee Instructions

Fill the reservoir with water, up to the bottom of the steam release valve. Insert the funnel filter. Carefully add your finely ground espresso beans and lightly tamp. Attach the top and do not over tighten.

Betty Crapper made a mess.

The key to great homemade Cuban coffee is espumita. Add sugar to a small pitcher.

Place the espresso maker on high heat and wait. 

Espumita is very easy to make, but it requires vigilance. Do not walk away from the stove.

This is what you are waiting for!

Pour the very first drops of café into your sugar. Return the pot to the stove. It needs to finish oozing goodness. With the spoon, vigorously beat the first drops of café until the sugar/café mixture is very light colored and foamy.

Add the rest of the café and stir.

What beautiful crema on top, achieved without the benefit of a fancy and very expensive espresso machine. Although, Betty Crapper dreams of very expensive espresso machines (hint, hint!)

Decisions, decisions ... Good night? Bad night?

Tips and a Cautionary Tale

If you miss the very first few drops of coffee, no espumita for you! Don't sweat it, the coffee still works it's morning magic.

Any espresso roast will do. Bustelo and Pilon are the traditional brands.

Cuban coffee is usually served very sweet. Betty Crapper does not make hers that sweet. When Betty Crapper uses her single serving model, she uses a scant teaspoon of sugar. 

Café is served in those teeny tiny espresso cups. 

One day, back in her college cramming years, Betty Crapper desperately needed the magic of Cuban café. Betty Crapper was in a hurry and placed her cafetera in the middle of the burner. She figured it would come out faster.

She was right; however ...

Betty Crapper learned the hard way this is not a good idea with a cheap stovetop model. Don't EVER allow the plastic handle to sit directly above the burner. The plastic handle melted all over the burner and set off the smoke alarm.

Not a good day.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Meal Plan 5/17-5/23

I predict this week's meal plan will not be followed consistently. 

My father is in town and I am not quite sure what I'll be doing each day. Today, I'll be eating camarones enchilados at my paternal aunt's house. That was one of my favorite special occasion meals growing up, so I am really looking forward to it.

Monday: leftover meatloaf and buttermilk mashed potatoes for hubby, out for me!
Tuesday: savory peach chicken with brown rice
Wednesday: homemade pizza with salami
Thursday: Giada's chicken piccata 
Friday: picadillo with white rice
Saturday: probably out
Sunday: chicken paella

I reserve the right to make substitutions and deletions due to laziness.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Carrot Cake

Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Yum!

It is good; really, really good. I am not just saying that because I made it yesterday and have a piece within reach. 


Betty Crapper's carrot cake is delicious and decadent. There is nothing healthy or low fat about it. The frosting is rich and creamy. Did I mention it is really, really good? 

Betty Crapper likes to brag.

Why did I first start making carrot cake over 25 years ago? I am not sure, but I am very glad I did. It all started when my maternal tia gave me my third baking book. I was still in elementary school and already baking obsessively. 

The poor thing looks pitiful after all these years. The cover is loose and the pages are yellow. I am positive there is mold growing in that book.

You need lots of carrots for carrot cake. Don't ever, ever buy pre-grated carrots for carrot cake. 

When I first started making carrot cake, my parents did not own a food processor. We didn't even own a metal box grater. We had this round, plastic tupperware contraption that sliced and grated. I remember it was green and required exhausting elbow grease to grate three cups of carrots. Plastic can never be as sharp as metal. 

A young Betty Crapper complained frequently to no avail.

About ten years ago, Betty Crapper finally received a food processor for Christmas. It's not the fancy, large capacity machine of her dreams (hint, hint!), but it does the job quickly with no elbow grease.

I rarely open the book anymore for fear of what I might find. Here is the original recipe. Yes, those are stains. The recipe for carrot cake has long been committed to memory.

You will need 

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3 cups shredded carrots
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs

In large mixer bowl stir flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add carrots, oil, and eggs. Beat on medium speed for two minutes.

Pour the yummy batter into a 13 X 9 inch pan or two 9 inch rounds.

How do I know the batter is yummy? Betty Crapper is not afraid of salmonella.

Bake in a 325 F oven for 50 to 60 minutes (40 min for 9 in rounds).

When the cake is cool, make the frosting. You will need to double the recipe to frost layers.

You will need

3 ounces cream cheese (never, ever fat free or low fat)
1/4 cup butter (never, ever margarine)
2 cups powdered sugar

Betty Crapper is lazy and does not sift her powdered sugar. 

Put butter, cream cheese, and vanilla in bowl.

Cream it. Don't forget to scrape the sides of the bowl.

Did you notice the burn mark on Betty Crapper's rubber spatula? Betty Crapper didn't get her name for nothin'.

Add powdered sugar and beat until it reaches it's most luscious potential. 

Frost your cake! 

Betty Crapper does not know how to frost pretty cakes.

Enjoy a piece of Betty Crapper's carrot cake ...

Betty Crapper indulged three times today.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Balsamic Chicken over Brown Rice

I love brown rice. Making brown rice is not difficult. I promise. Do not be afraid. All you need is a covered pot, stove, and TIME!  Brown rice takes a loooooong time to cook. That time is worth it because TIME yields nutty, flavorful perfect brown rice.  

I really like the flavor of organic brown basmati. The basic recipe is no secret. It is on the back of the bag.

I think rice made without salt is not worth eating. I also use olive oil, not butter in my rice. Follow the cooking instructions on the bag. 

M's Brown Rice

1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt

I do the following. Combine rice, water, salt, and olive oil in a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Bring to a boil. Stir and cover with lid. Reduce heat to simmer and cook 50 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand in covered pot for 10 minutes. Resist temptation and DO NOT OPEN! 

You may have to play with the temperature setting of your stove the first few times you make brown rice to yield perfection. Why? ... because all stoves and cookware conduct heat differently. Betty Crapper says so. 

Betty Crapper is bossy. Just ask her sister.

Brown rice takes about one hour. Start the rice then begin prepping the rest of your meal. 

I have a nine month old. 

Sometimes, it takes all day to prep for dinner, but I digress...

You will need balsamic vinegar, chicken broth, tomatoes, shallots, garlic, salt, pepper, and chicken breasts. 

I will spare you the picture of raw, naked chicken breasts. I am recovering from raw chicken phobia. I understand it is pretty common. Know that I used organic, free range chicken. Yes, it is more expensive; however, antibiotics and hormones do not belong in my family's food. 

One day I will learn how to make chicken broth.  Must not be afraid. Must NOT be afraid!

I like to chop and measure everything before cooking. Makes my life easier, especially with a nine month old.

Rinse and dry your chicken breasts. I like to slice the two breasts in half and cut them up. It makes the meal seem bigger. 

If I had a meat tenderizer (hint, hint!) I would have pounded the pieces to make them  flat. One day.

Salt and pepper both sides. How much is up to you.


I can handle that picture because the chicken is not naked. I have made progress.

It is now time to get this party started. 

Preheat your skillet. I used medium heat. Once the pan is hot, add some olive oil to the pan. Once the oil is hot, begin browning your chicken. My first batch took ten minutes to brown and my second batch took five minutes.

It took me a long time to learn how to brown chicken. I had many, many betty crapper moments learning how. Here is what I do to achieve 

  • Chicken must be bone dry. Use paper towels and pat the chicken dry.
  • Skillet must be pre-heated. Same for the oil.
  • Resist the temptation to touch the chicken while it is browning. Walk away. I usually wash dishes and do laundry while I wait at least five minutes before checking the first batch.
  • If the chicken is stuck to the pan ... it is not brown yet, keep waiting. It will unstick when it is browned!
  • Only turn once.
  • Brown chicken in batches. Do not let the pieces touch. Didn't you know chicken had personal body space?

Once chicken is browned remove from pan to a plate. When you are done browning the chicken, the pan will look gross. In your head, you think this pan will need serious elbow grease to clean.

You will hate Betty Crapper right now. 

Betty Crapper does not care.

Lower the heat to medium low. Add a little more oil to the pan. Saute the chopped shallots for a few minutes. Add the minced garlic. Have I told you how much I love my garlic press? Saute for about one minute.

You really, really hate Betty Crapper because at this point your pan really, really looks icky. Note, it should not be black and burnt. If it is, your pan was too hot before you added the shallots and garlic.

I promise you are about to love Betty Crapper.

Add the tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, and chicken broth to the pan.

Now scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. That's where all the yummy flavor is. I like to use a wooden spatula to really scrape everything up. Turn up the heat to medium and let that sauce reduce for about five minutes. 

Even if the above didn't yield the most yummy sauce ever, it does mean no scrubbing when you clean the pan. 

See, I told you Betty Crapper was loveable.

Add your browned chicken to the pan. Cover and reduce heat to low. I let mine sit for about ten minutes until my brown rice was done. 

M's Balsamic Chicken

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup chicken broth
4 minced garlic cloves
1 chopped shallot
2 chicken breasts
extra virgin olive oil

Pre-heat skillet on medium heat. Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to skillet and heat. Brown chicken in batches. Remove chicken to a plate. Lower heat to low if too hot. Add a little more olive oil to skillet. Saute chopped shallots for about two minutes. Add minced garlic and saute for one minute. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, and vinegar to skillet and scrape up all the brown bits. Raise heat to medium and allow sauce to reduce for about five minutes. Return chicken to skillet and cover. Lower heat to low until chicken is cooked through and dinner is ready to serve.