There's everything right with old-fashioned cooking

News-DemocratJanuary 6, 2014 

Children can't get enough of hearing a favorite bedtime story read to them, over and over and over. For little ones, there is comfort in knowing what's coming on the next page and how the tale ends. It soothes them.

For cooks, it isn't so different. It's why we have dog-eared cookbooks and worn pieces of paper sticking out of our recipe box. It's why we keep certain ingredients on our shelves all the time. It's an old-fashioned notion, but tried and true dishes that have been made the same way for years -- even decades -- bring us a small amount of reassurance that some things in the world don't have to change.

We all have recipes that seem to invoke these feelings. Sit down at a "family" restaurant and you're likely to find a menu that includes old-fashioned choices, such as beef stew or macaroni and cheese. Generally, we know what to expect when we eat it (even if it's not grandma's recipe).

With temperatures plummeting like we haven't seen in more than a decade, it's time we wrap ourselves in some warm, fondly remembered dishes.

If you've never made some of them, perhaps you'll have a new old-fashioned recipe to add to your collection.

Betty Crocker Kitchens resurrected a classic 1970s Bisquick recipe for doughnut holes, updating the recipe and using popular pantry items to develop five new shake-in-the-bag flavor coatings.

Homemade Doughnut Holes 5 Ways

2 cups Bisquick mix

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 cup milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg, beaten

Dry flavor choices (see below)

1. In deep fryer or 2-quart heavy saucepan, heat 2 to 3 inches oil to 375 degrees. Place one of the coatings (ideas below) into a brown paper lunch bag or medium bowl.

2. Lightly spoon Bisquick mix into measuring cup; level off with straight edge of knife. Add to medium bowl along with remaining doughnut hole ingredients; mix just until dough forms.

3. Work with half of the dough at a time; cover and refrigerate remaining half of dough. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Sprinkle fingers and hands with Bisquick mix if they get sticky.

4. Carefully drop balls, 5 or 6 at a time, into hot oil. Fry 1 to 2 minutes or until golden brown all around; drain on paper towels. Immediately gently shake 2 or 3 doughnut holes at a time in bag, or roll in coating in a bowl. Repeat with refrigerated dough. Makes 38 doughnut holes.


Butterscotch: 2 boxes (4-serving size) butterscotch instant pudding and pie filling mix.

Raspberry: 2 boxes (4-serving size) raspberry or strawberry-flavored gelatin

Cookies and Cream: 5 creme-filled chocolate sandwich cookies, crushed, mixed with 1/2 cup powdered sugar.

Mexican Chocolate: 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 2 3/4 teaspoons unsweetened baking cocoa, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon.

Pistachio: 2 boxes (4-serving size) pistachio instant pudding and pie filling mix, 1 tablespoon each red and green sugars, if desired.

Tip: If coating in bowl, gelatin will stain hands. Use a spoon or gloved hands.

Other choices: For more traditional doughnut holes, roll them in powdered sugar, granulated sugar or a 2-to-1 mix of sugar and cinnamon.

Alton Brown's mac and cheese is meant for adult tastes, but kids will love it, too. Some reviewers on his site said to back off on the mustard; others said to add more. Also, at least one reviewer said to use a mix of cheeses instead of solely Cheddar. Feel free to adapt, especially when it comes to the types of cheese and pasta shapes. The topping also is optional.

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

1/2 pound elbow macaroni

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon powdered mustard

3 cups milk

1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1 large egg

12 ounces sharp Cheddar, shredded

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Fresh black pepper


3 tablespoons butter

1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and mustard and keep it moving for about five minutes. Make sure it's free of lumps.

Stir in the milk, onion, bay leaf and paprika. Simmer for ten minutes and remove the bay leaf.

Very slowly add in the slightly beaten egg. Stir in 3/4 of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

Melt the butter in a saute pan and toss with the bread crumbs to coat them. Top the macaroni with the bread crumbs. Bake 30 minutes. Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

This is a fast beef stew to put together because there is no browning the meat first.

Slow Cooker Beef Stew

2 pounds beef stew meat, cut into 1 inch cubes

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 onion, chopped

1 1/2 cups beef broth

3 potatoes, diced

4 carrots, sliced

Place meat in 4- to 5-quart slow cooker. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, salt and pepper; add to meat and stir to coat.

Stir in rest of ingredients. Cover and cook on low 10 to 12 hours, or on high 4 to 6 hours., adapted from

Turmeric is the star in this dish, despite the small amount used. It takes just a pinch of turmeric to brighten the dish to a lovely yellow and add just a hint of something unexpected. Turmeric is a fragrant and mellow spice. If you don't have it on hand, you can skip it.

Roasted Green Beans and Potatoes

4 large red potatoes, cut into 3/4- to 1-inch chunks, about 4 cups

1 pound fresh green beans, trimmed and halved

3-4 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon granulated garlic or garlic powder

1 teaspoon paprika, smoked paprika if you have it

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 cup shredded Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with a Silpat silicone mat or parchment paper. If you don't line it, grease the pan liberally with extra olive oil.

Toss the potatoes with a couple tablespoons of oil and then sprinkle generously with the spices. (Toss with your hands to make sure they are very well-coated.) Add about half of the cheese and toss well to distribute.

Spread the potatoes across the prepared baking sheet and roast 45 minutes. (Set a timer for 25 minutes.)

While the potatoes begin roasting, prepare the green beans. Toss them with a tablespoon or so of oil and then sprinkle them generously with the remaining spices. Toss with your hands to coat well. Add the remaining cheese and toss again to coat.

After the potatoes have roasted about 25 minutes, remove from the oven. Add the green beans to the potatoes, stir with a spatula to combine and then spread them across the baking sheet.

Return to the oven and roast an additional 20-25 minutes. When the potatoes are tender and slightly crisp, remove from the oven. The green beans should be tender with a slight bite remaining.

This recipe is from Ina Garten and the Food Network. It makes 4 individual-size pies. Use ramekins or any oven-proof bowls.

Want to cut out some of the work? Use rotisserie chicken and refrigerator pie crust.

Chicken Pot Pie

3 whole (6 split) chicken breasts, bone-in, skin-on

3 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

5 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade

2 chicken bouillon cubes

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter

2 cups yellow onions, chopped (2 onions)

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 cups medium-diced carrots, blanched for 2 minutes*

1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas (2 cups)

1 1/2 cups frozen small whole onions

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

For the pastry:

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1/4 pound cold unsalted butter, diced

1/2 to 2/3 cup ice water

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Flaked sea salt and cracked black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray four oven-proof bowls with nonstick cooking spray.

Place the chicken breasts on a baking sheet and rub them with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until cooked through. Set aside until cool enough to handle, then remove the meat from the bones and discard the skin. Cut the chicken into large dice. You will have 4 to 6 cups of cubed chicken.

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock and dissolve the bouillon cubes in the stock. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and saute the onions over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until translucent. Add the flour and cook over low heat, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Add the hot chicken stock to the sauce. Simmer over low heat for 1 more minute, stirring, until thick. Add 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and heavy cream. Add the cubed chicken, carrots, peas, onions and parsley. Mix well.

For the pastry, mix the flour, salt, and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add the shortening and butter and mix quickly with your fingers until each piece is coated with flour. Pulse 10 times, or until the fat is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water; process only enough to moisten the dough and have it just come together. Dump the dough out onto a floured board and knead quickly into a ball. Wrap the dough in plastic and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Divide the filling equally among 4 bowls. Divide the dough into quarters and roll each piece into an 8-inch circle. Brush the outside edges of each bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the side, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place on a baking sheet and bake 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the filling is bubbling hot. Serves 4.

Apple-Walnut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting


2 large eggs

1 2/3 cups sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

5 large apples, peeled and chopped

1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped


6 ounces cream cheese, softened

3 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat eggs and sugar with electric mixer in large bowl until well blended.

Add oil and vanilla; mix well.

Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg. Pour into a greased 9-by-13 pan. Bake 50 to 55 minutes, or until wooden toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Frost with cream cheese frosting. Store frost cake in refrigerator.

Frosting: Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla in small mixing bowl with wire whisk until well blended. Gradually beat in sugar until desired consistency is reached.

"The Eckert Family Fall Cookbook"

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