By Barbara Beltrami
Sometimes when I really want to know how to cook something, I go to the store-bought container the main ingredient comes in. I figure the producer isn’t going to steer me wrong and give me a recipe that doesn’t work or isn’t any good because then their product will look bad.
That being said, I usually can’t help fiddling around a little bit with the recipe and seeing if I can give another dimension or slightly different taste. It might just be the addition of nuts to a muffin recipe or garlic or onion to a stew recipe or maybe even just a pinch of an additional spice or herb, and because it’s never anything radical, so far this habit hasn’t caused disaster.
So here are a couple of recipes I’ve tweaked successfully. The featured product or ingredient bears an asterisk. My addition or substitution bears a double asterisk.
YIELD: Makes 12 muffins
12 paper baking cups or cooking spray
*1 1/2 cups Original Fiber One cereal
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup raisins, if desired
**1 teaspoon vanilla (instead of 1/2 teaspoon)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, if desired
**1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
**1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Heat oven to 400 F. Place a paper baking cup in each of 12 regular-size muffin cups or spray just the bottoms of the cups with cooking spray. Place the bran is a resealable food storage plastic bag; seal the bag, and roll over it with a rolling pin or bottle, or press with bottom of small saucepan to crush cereal into fine crumbs.
In a medium bowl, stir the crushed cereal, milk, raisins and vanilla until well mixed. Let stand about 5 minutes or until cereal has softened. Beat in the oil and egg with a fork. In another bowl, stir the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and walnuts until well mixed. Stir flour mixture into cereal mixture just until flour is moistened (batter will be lumpy). Spoon the batter into the cups, dividing batter evenly.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If muffins were baked in paper baking cups, immediately remove from pan to a cooling rack. If muffins were baked in a sprayed pan, leave in pan 5 minutes, then remove from pan to cooling rack. Serve warm.
YIELD: Makes 6 servings.
3 large bell peppers, cut in half lengthwise and seeds removed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup sliced scallion
1 garlic clove
**1 cup frozen peas, thawed (instead of corn)
One 14-ounce can chopped tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup chopped parsley
**1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (instead of dried rosemary)
*1 cup Ben’s Original Long Grain White Rice, cooked
1 teaspoon salt
**Freshly ground pepper to taste
**1/4 cup unflavored breadcrumbs (instead of cornflake crumbs)
**1 tablespoon olive oil
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9″ x 13″ x 5″ rectangular baking dish and place pepper, cut side down, in the oven while it preheats. Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter; add onion, celery, scallion and garlic and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes; remove and discard garlic. Add peas, tomatoes, parsley, thyme, rice, salt and pepper and stir frequently until heated through, about two minutes. Remove dish with peppers from oven, turn peppers over so cut side is up and fill each one with rice mixture. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top and drizzle 1/2 teaspoon olive oil over crumbs. Bake uncovered 12 to 15 minutes until heated through. **Serve with a bean salad.