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Even The Handicap Can Cook: Classic Comfort Food ; A preview from my book

When you need feel-good food fast, turn to these updated classics to get you out of the kitchen and at the dinner table in no time

The Menu

Comfort foods are an American family tradition. Try your hand at this menu filled with feel-good recipes and easy-to-follow tips.

-- Simple Beef and Noodles
-- Skillet Pot Roast with Cherries
-- Twice-Baked Potatoes
-- Mashed Sweet Potatoes
-- Saucy Apple Dumplings

Simple Beef and Noodles
Precooked beef tips speed up this traditionally slow-cooked dish. Ready in just 25 minutes, it pairs well with a crisp green salad and crusty roll.

1 17-ounce package refrigerated cooked beef tips with gravy
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 10.75-ounce can condensed golden mushroom soup
1/2 cup beef broth
1-1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup packaged peeled baby carrots, halved lengthwise
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced (1/3 cup)
1 12-ounce package frozen egg noodles

1. In a 3-quart saucepan combine beef tips with gravy, basil, and pepper. Stir in soup and broth. Bring to boiling. Add mushrooms, carrots, and onion. Return to boiling; reduce heat to low. Simmer, covered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring frequently.

2. Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions; drain. Serve meat mixture over noodles. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Skillet Pot Roast with Cherries
Cherries in a pot roast? You bet! The fruit, along with balsamic vinegar, adds a little sweetness to the sauce of this one-pan entree.

1 12-ounce package frozen unsweetened pitted dark sweet cherries
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, halved (3 cups)
3/4 cup bite-size strips red sweet pepper (1 medium)
1 cup chopped onion (1 large)
2 tablespoons snipped fresh sage or thyme or 2 teaspoons dried sage or thyme, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil or cooking oil
2 16- to 17-ounce packages refrigerated cooked beef pot roast with juices
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 24-ounce package refrigerated mashed potatoes

1. Place cherries in a colander. Run cold water over cherries to partially thaw; drain well. Set aside.

2. In a 12-inch skillet cook mushrooms, sweet pepper, onion, and 1 tablespoon of the sage in hot oil about 7 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Add pot roasts and juices, cherries, and balsamic vinegar to the skillet. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until heated through and juices thicken slightly, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with remaining sage; stir to combine.

3. Meanwhile, prepare potatoes according to package directions. Serve with pot roast. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Twice-Baked Potatoes
Once you master the basic Twice-Baked Potatoes recipe, try making the rich Bacon-Cheddar potatoes

2 large Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 pound)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 tablespoons dairy sour cream
1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives
1/4 cup finely shredded Gruyere or Swiss cheese (1 ounce)
Ground black pepper
Snipped fresh chives (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Scrub potatoes thoroughly with a brush; pat dry. Prick potatoes with a fork. Drizzle olive oil over each potato and sprinkle with salt. Wrap each potato in foil. Bake potatoes in the preheated oven about 1 hour or until tender. Remove and discard foil. Let potatoes stand about 15 minutes to cool slightly. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Carefully scoop pulp out of each potato, leaving a 1/4- to 1/2-inch shell; set potato shells aside. Place potato pulp in a large bowl. Mash potato pulp with a potato masher or an electric mixer on low speed until nearly smooth.

2. In a 1- to 1-1/2-quart saucepan heat milk and butter over medium heat until butter is melted. Pour milk mixture over mashed potatoes; beat until smooth. Stir in sour cream, the 1 tablespoon snipped chives, and 2 tablespoons of the cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mound mixture into reserved potato shells. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Place potatoes in a single layer in a 2-quart square baking dish.

3. Bake, uncovered, in a 400F oven about 20 minutes or until golden brown and heated through. If desired, garnish with snipped chives. Makes 4 servings.

4. Make-ahead directions: Prepare as directed through Step 2. Place potatoes in a single layer in an airtight container. Cover and chill for up to 24 hours. Before serving, preheat oven to 325F. Place potatoes in a 2-quart square baking dish. Bake, covered, in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake about 15 minutes more or until potatoes are golden brown and heated through.

5. Bacon-Cheddar Twice-Baked Potatoes: Prepare as above, except in Step 2 stir in 1/3 cup cooked, crumbled bacon along with the sour cream; substitute cheddar cheese for the Gruyere cheese.

6. Southwestern Twice Baked Potatoes: Prepare as above, except in Step 2 substitute snipped fresh cilantro for the chives; substitute Monterey Jack cheese with jalapenos for the Gruyere. Serve with purchased salsa. Omit optional chive garnish.

Take a look at the next three cooking ideal's for a closer look at some of the recipe's key steps.

Step 1: Scrub the Potatoes

Scrub the potatoes with a brush and rinse thoroughly under cool tap water. The next slide shows how to poke holes in the potatoes.

Step 2: Prick the Potatoes

After scrubbing the potatoes, use a fork to prick the potatoes all over. This lets steam escape so the potatoes don't explode during baking. Step 3 demonstrates how to scoop the potato pulp from the skin.

Step 3: Scoop Out the Pulp

After baking the potatoes the first time and letting them cool slightly, hold each half with a paper towel or pot holder. Carefully scoop out pulp, leaving a 1/4- to 1/2-inch shell. The next slide shows how to mash the potatoes.

Step 4: Mash the Potatoes

After scooping out the potatoes, mash or beat the pulp until nearly smooth, then mix in the other ingredients. Step 5 gives the best way to scoop the pulp into the skins.

Step 5: Filling the Potato Skins

Once you've added ingredients to the mashed potatoes, use two spoons to scoop the mashed potato mixture into the potato shells. Mound the potato mixture slightly.

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are a hit on the holiday table -- or any other day of the year -- with just a pat of butter on top, but they're versatile enough for sweet add-ins, such as the maple syrup and hazelnut topping

4 pounds sweet potatoes or white potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 10 cups)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/3 cup dairy sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Butter or margarine (optional)

1. In a 4-quart Dutch oven cook the potatoes, covered, in enough boiling lightly salted water to cover for 12 minutes or until tender; drain. Remove potatoes from pan.

2. Add the butter to the hot Dutch oven and let it melt. Add the potatoes to the Dutch oven; mash with a potato masher until smooth. Stir in the sour cream, milk, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir over low heat until heated through. Transfer to a serving dish. If desired, place a dot of butter on top. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

3. Make-ahead directions: Prepare potatoes through Step 2 but do not heat through. Transfer to a 2-1/2- to 3-quart casserole. Cover and chill for up to 24 hours. Before serving, preheat oven to 325F. Bake, covered, in the preheated oven for 55 to 60 minutes or until heated through.�

4. Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes: Prepare as above. Before serving, drizzle 1/4 cup maple syrup over potatoes and sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts or almonds, toasted.

Saucy Apple Dumplings

Purchased puff pastry transforms slightly sweetened apples into neatly packaged dumplings. Top with a two-ingredient sauce. The next four slides walk you through the essential steps.

1/2 of a 17.3-ounce package frozen puff pastry (1 sheet), thawed
4 medium Granny Smith apples
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 egg
1 teaspoon water
1/2 cup purchased caramel ice cream topping or Caramel Sauce
1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1. Unfold puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Roll pastry into a 14-inch square. Using a knife, cut pastry into four 7-inch squares. Set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 375F. Peel and core apples. If necessary, trim bottoms of apples so they stand upright. Place an apple in the center of each pastry square. In a small bowl stir together sugar and cinnamon; spoon into centers of apples.

3. In another small bowl beat egg and the water with a fork. Moisten the edges of the pastry squares with egg mixture; fold corners to center over apples. Pinch to seal, pleating and folding pastry along seams as necessary. Place dumplings in a 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Using a pastry brush, brush dumplings with egg mixture.

4. Bake dumplings, uncovered, in the preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until apples are tender and pastry is golden. (Test for doneness by sticking the tip of a paring knife into a dumpling.) Meanwhile, combine caramel topping and pecans in a microwave-safe 2-cup glass measure; microwave, uncovered, on 100-percent power (high) for 30 to 60 seconds or until heated through, stirring once. Serve dumplings warm with sauce. Makes 4 dumplings.

5. Apple Dumplings with Cranberry-Sour Cream Filling: Prepare apples as above, except omit the cinnamon and sugar. In a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons sour cream, 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar, 2 tablespoons dried cranberries, 2 tablespoons chopped toasted pecans, and, if desired, 1/2 teaspoon grated orange peel. Fill apples with sour cream mixture.

Step 1: Cutting Rolled Pastry

Using a sharp knife, cut the rolled pastry into four equal squares. The next slide shows how to prepare the pastry for sealing.

Step 2: Preparing Pastry

After cutting the pastry and filling the apples with the sugar mixture, brush the egg mixture on pastry edges to help seal them. Step 3 shows how to pinch the pastry over the apple.

Step 3: Pinch Pastry

Once you've brushed egg on the pastry, start from the corners and pinch the pastry edges together; pleat and fold as necessary. Step 4 shows the proper spacing of the dumplings in the baking pan.

Step 4: Arrange Dumplings in Pan

After sealing all the dumplings, arrange them in a baking pan so they are not touching. Brush dumplings with more of the egg mixture.

Even The Handicap Can Cook

Even The Handicap Can Cook is an innovative cookbook that encourages people with handicap disiabilties that they can make simple yet tasty meals, while providing the tools to move on to more complex recipes.
You can look for my book in your favorite book store in the first part of 2009.

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