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Janet's Rich Banana Bread

Reviewed: Apr. 14, 2008
With minor variations this is the recipe I've been making for 40 years. It originally came from a home ec teacher and it is beyond awesome. The differences are, first, that I cream the softened butter with the sugar (not melted). I add 1 tsp. lemon juice with the vanilla, and use 1 tsp. each of baking soda and baking powder, and 1-3/4 c. flour. Finally, regardless of how many bananas are used it should equal 1 cup. You will never find a better banana bread, and over the course of 40 years, I've never heard differently. Edited 8/17/09: My original 4/14/08 review should have indicated that I mash the bananas, not slice them.
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Pan-Fried Asparagus

Reviewed: Jul. 31, 2008
Experienced cooks will know, without reading the submitter's review and clarification, that this recipe has some problems. For inexperienced cooks, it's no wonder they didn't care for this if they prepared it as the recipe is written, with its excessive amounts of butter and olive oil, and the direction to saute the garlic over such high heat. If made correctly, you will simply drizzle a bit of olive oil in a pan, add a little butter, saute the asparagus until crisp tender, and add the garlic at the very end after lowering the heat. This is a simple,delicious and classic method of preparing many vegetables in addition to asparagus, worthy of five stars if prepared with the necessary modifications.
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David's Yellow Cake

Reviewed: Aug. 7, 2008
With no disrespect to other reviewers who had a variety of issues and criticisms with this recipe, it occurs to me that either they are too familiar with boxed yellow cake, or are unfamiliar with basic, scratch, cake making techniques. True, boxed yellow cake is more moist, but it tastes, well, like boxed cake mix, which is unmistakable and just plain bad. True, scratch butter cakes can have a tendency to be a little dry, particularly yellow butter cakes. But this yellow cake is definitely better than any I have ever tried in my 50 years of baking--more moist than most, flavorful, and with a light and tender crumb. Cream your butter and sugar well, a good few minutes. This is key for a light and fluffy cake! Follow the recipe directions carefully--add yolks one at a time, blending well after each addition. Add the flour and milk separately and with a light hand, beginning and ending with the flour. And do not overbake! If your cake is dry or dense you are not following the directions. I made half a recipe in an 8x8" pan and frosted it with half a recipe of "Buttercream Icing." I challenge you to find a better yellow cake with buttercream frosting in any well-respected neighborhood bakery, or in any old-fashioned baker's recipe box!
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2257 users found this review helpful

Slow Cooker Carnitas

Reviewed: Jun. 11, 2008
As the aroma of this wafted through the house I just knew we were in for something good and boy, were we! I doubled the amount of spices but left out the cinnamon, and used 4 big cloves of minced, fresh garlic instead of the garlic powder. I cut the roast into large chunks so the spices could penetrate the meat better and it worked like a charm. Finally, to make these more authentic, after shredding the meat into smaller chunks I spread it out in a thin layer on a cookie sheet and baked it in a 400 degree oven about 20 minutes, just long enough to crisp the exterior of the meat. Great on it's own, but in a tortilla with a little of the "Avocado Salad with Bacon and Sour Cream" this was just over the top good. The meat was tender and perfectly seasoned, keeping in mind, however, that I doubled up on the spices. We are looking forward to having the leftovers again tomorrow night!
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2188 users found this review helpful
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Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Reviewed: Feb. 17, 2009
Looking over the ingredients list and the measurements of each, I recognized this as your fairly standard, classic chocolate chip cookie recipe--and I expected fairly standard results. I was baking in our second home today, where I have a convection oven (which I remain somewhat unfamiliar with). I don't know if it was the convection oven or something else I'm missing, but these did not turn out to be fairly standard chocolate chip cookies! Rather, they were some of the best I've ever tried. First of all, they stay uniform in shape and size, which is important to me, and they're just the right thickness--not poofy little cakes, and not flat and spread out. They're rich and buttery, with crispy outsides, and a soft but chewey inside. I didn't bother to mix the baking soda in the 2 tsp. hot water, just mixed it in with the flour--I also added 1/2 tsp. salt to heighten flavor. Since 2 tsp. of water was called for that I didn't use, I "upped" the vanilla to a full tablespoon. I also used milk chocolate chips this time around, but that surely can't account for why these were so darn good and so pretty either. I'm so proud of how these turned out and I'll be proud to send them with my husband tomorrow to his meeting. If not "Best Chocolate Chip Cookies," this recipe is certainly ONE of the best!
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1843 users found this review helpful

Best Ever Pie Crust

Reviewed: Nov. 26, 2007
Since most of the reviews for this pie crust are so positive you will be tempted, as I was, to use this recipe. Before you do, however, I urge you to pay careful attention to not only the one or two star reviews, but also to any reviews that indicate they made changes, or who comment that there was too much shortening in the recipe. They are all right on! My experience was the same...too much fat makes a dough that is too greasy, fragile and difficult to work with. I can't even comment on how it baked as I didn't get that far. I was so disappointed in the dough itself that I just pitched it and made it again using my old recipe. I didn't trust the dough enough to gamble with what the finished product would be. If you make the necessary changes to make this pie crust work then you really aren't using this recipe anyway!
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1735 users found this review helpful
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Black Magic Cake

Reviewed: Oct. 26, 2007
I've done quite a lot of baking in my life, which has included more cakes than I could count. This chocolate cake is one of the best I've ever made. Moist, fragrant,dark and with a rich chocolate flavor. It will become a classic go-to recipe for me. No reason to search for a better chocolate cake.
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1644 users found this review helpful
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Gourmet Mushroom Risotto

Reviewed: Jun. 19, 2009
In order to get that beautiful, creamy consistency a good risotto is so noted for, I found 15-20 minutes of cooking time was not nearly long enough. The simmering broth must be added little by little, cooked and stirred till it's absorbed, then repeating this step, ladle by ladle of broth, until the risotto is tender but not mushy, the broth is absorbed, and the starches break down resulting in creamy risotto - however long that takes. In my case, it probably took twice as long as the recipe directed, but then I cooked this at moderate heat in order to release the starches slowly. The end result was a creamy risotto with great flavor, the perfect complement to the pork piccata I served it with.
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Banana Cake VI

Reviewed: Sep. 25, 2008
Baking a cake at a ridiculously low temperature (traditionally it's 350 degrees), then putting a hot cake right out of the oven into the freezer? What? I was tempted to simply bake this in the traditional manner, 350 degrees until done, then let cool on a wire rack. But I noticed the submitter's review, and she was so adamant about the unconventional baking temperature and cooling method that I thought to be fair to her I'd give it a try (especially since it was the rare occasion where I had enough room in the freezer for it). Well let me tell you, I don't know if the cake would have turned out any differently had I baked it in the traditional manner, but this was one, outstanding banana cake! To tell you the truth, I was surprised. It is not uncommon for these types of cakes to be dry or not to be baked through. But this one has a soft outer crust, not overly browned, and a moist, tender interior. It was fun to give this unusual set of directions a try and I'm glad I did. Other than make a half recipe in an 8x8" pan and adjusting the baking time accordingly, I followed the directions exactly and was not disappointed. Now that I've had the first piece I can't wait to share it! The added perk was that because the cake is cooled in the freezer, you can bake and serve this in no time! The frosting is a tried and true cream cheese frosting, and topped with a sprinkle of finely chopped nuts, this was just a simply delicious and beautiful cake.
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1255 users found this review helpful
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Donut Muffins

Reviewed: May 21, 2010
I'm curious about a couple of things about this recipe. First, why did I end up with 24, not 12, of these mini muffins as the recipe indicates? Could it be an AR misprint? Mine is a standard, mini-muffin tin. Second, I really don't like nutmeg much. So WHY do I LOVE these muffins?! And why can't I stop popping them in my mouth? Don't kid yourself by thinking that because they're small you won't eat as much. You'll just eat more of them. And making them in the mini muffin tins was GENIUS, Dianne! That way you get more of that buttery, cinnamony sweetness in every bite! I did make a couple of modifications, but nothing that would significantly alter the recipe. I used butter instead of margarine and, because I have an entire quart of buttermilk to use, I subbed buttermilk for the milk. This worked beautifully, but please note that if you do that you MUST add 1/2 tsp. baking soda and eliminate the baking powder to adjust the acidity and make them rise properly! Plus they're so darned pretty I could just eat them up! (And I already did, with five of them) Your recipe is a beauty, Dianne! ~A hopefully helpful update: because of my curiosity I did some shopping around to learn that the sizes of mini-muffin tins varies, sometimes significantly! This explains the variance in yield with this recipe, to anywhere from 12 to 24 of these little muffins.
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Italian Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

Reviewed: Jan. 25, 2008
I think every Italian family makes this dish, with slight variations of course, within their own family traditions. While this is a fairly standard way of making sausage and peppers, my family uses olive oil rather than butter, uses little or no herbs (fresh basil is always nice here), red wine rather than white, and some crushed or diced canned tomatoes, or marinara sauce. Great on Italian rolls or over a sturdy pasta. This is always a treat!
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Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Reviewed: Jan. 27, 2008
To be honest, I did a number of things differently with this, so I guess this is a review of a VARIATION of this recipe. After reading through it I knew I wanted a heartier soup with more depth of flavor. I sauteed a few strips of bacon, then added chopped celery, onion, mushrooms and a big clove of garlic. Since I used a larger package of rice I decreased the amount of flour to 1/3 c. to allow for the added thickness the extra rice would provide, and I used 1 c. cream and 1 c. milk. I also added an extra chicken breast and, during the final simmering, a healthy splash of white wine, probably a good 1/2 cup. The result was positively outstanding!
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1075 users found this review helpful
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Simple White Cake

Reviewed: Jan. 18, 2010
I've long ago learned to be skeptical of the results with white cake recipes. They can be dry, tasteless, or have what some call a similarity to cornbread. I wanted a white cake that was moist, sweet and flavorful, without having to resort to a pound cake recipe, which would be heavier. I wanted a light, fluffy cake with a tender crumb. Butter isn't going to necessarily get you that, nor is a shortage of eggs or sugar. In this recipe I was tempted to reduce the amount of flour, and increase the amount of sugar and eggs but decided to leave it alone, especially for the sake of properly accessing this recipe - except for one small change, which probably was an important one. I used half butter for flavor and richness, and half shortening, to help ensure moistness. Cream the shortening and butter very well with the sugar, a good few minutes, add each egg separately and beat well after each addition. I added the WHOLE milk alternately with the flour mixture, beginning and ending with the flour, and mixing lightly, only enough to combine the ingredients. I made cupcakes, and dropped about 1/2 tsp. raspberry jam in the center of the batter before baking. I frosted them with pink buttercream frosting. I tasted one before I frosted them to make an accurate judgment of their quality. Perfect. Moist, yes moist! Tender, flavorful and pleasantly sweet. The failure or success of this recipe is hugely dependent upon proper mixing technique and not overbaking!
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Chicken Breasts in Caper Cream Sauce

Reviewed: Oct. 27, 2009
Four stars as written, as I believe that with just cream the sauce would lack dimension and would be rather flat. I embellished upon the recipe which made this dish a solid five star recipe. The chicken, which I seasoned only with salt and freshly ground pepper, developed a much more appealing look and color dredged in flour before sauteeing. Once I turned it over I covered it just briefly to make sure it was cooked through. After removing the chicken to set aside, I deglazed the pan with about 1/4 c. of white wine, then added the cream, a good squeeze of lemon (didn't use the lemon pepper at all), and now the dill. I used only two chicken breasts but kept the sauce measurements the same (essentially doubled the sauce), and it was just the right amount. If prepared with the amount of sauce as the recipe directs it would be pretty skimpy! The chicken was moist, tender and flavorful, with a rich, creamy lemon/caper/wine/dill sauce that made an already good chicken something extraordinarily delicious. I served this with cappellini pasta and "Spaghetti Squash Saute," also from this site. This was an outrageously delicious dish, a definite "make again." This cooking method and the sauce, by the way, would also be wonderful with salmon or other types of fish as well!
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981 users found this review helpful

Slow Cooked Corned Beef for Sandwiches

Reviewed: Apr. 30, 2008
Save yourself reading through 100+ reviews and stop your search for a corned beef recipe. This is flawless. Prepare it exactly as directed, and make it easy on yourself by allowing a Crock Pot to do all the work for you. Eight to ten hours later, you'll have tender and flavorful corned beef for however you choose to serve it. Perfection needn't be tinkered with! Just be sure to slice it against the grain.
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981 users found this review helpful

Bacon for the Family or a Crowd

Reviewed: Jan. 23, 2008
This method of cooking bacon when you're either cooking a big breakfast or when you're making a lot of bacon is like having a kitchen assistant! More important, it turns out beautifully. However, I always use an oven temperature of 400 degrees, and find it takes 15-20 minutes. I've heard of brushing the bacon with maple syrup or sprinkling on brown sugar during the last few minutes of baking, but I've never tried that. Thanks for passing this easy cooking method along to others.
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964 users found this review helpful

German Apple Cake I

Reviewed: Jan. 1, 2008
OMG this is awesome good! It just doesn't get any better than this! I kept all measurements and ingredients the same, only adding 1 tsp. of vanilla to the batter. It bakes to an almost cookie-like crunchiness on the top with a very moist and apple-y interior. I took it over the top by pouring over a caramel glaze: 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 c. brown sugar, and 1/4 c. cream. Bring to a boil, then boil 3 minutes. Remove from heat and add 1/2 tsp. vanilla. Let cool just slightly before pouring over warm cake. Hubby says the "sauce" was what made this extraordinarily good, but this cake is so good, so delicious, a simple sprinkling of powdered sugar would be just fine too. I don't EVER want to lose this recipe! Thanks so much for sharing it!
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Slow Cooker Roast Beef

Reviewed: Nov. 15, 2008
Since I had a sirloin tip roast that certainly wouldn't need 22 hours in the slow cooker, I only cooked it about 7-1/2 hours and it was done perfectly. I set the roast on a bed of cremini mushrooms, used beefy onion soup mix, since that's what I had in the pantry, only 2 T. of soy sauce to avoid this being too salty, a bay leaf, and just a mere cup of water. The house smelled wonderful and the roast was delicious and flavorful with a rich au jus. We're looking forward to having the leftovers as French Dip sandwiches!
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941 users found this review helpful

Lemon Pie Bars

Reviewed: May 8, 2009
This is a fairly standard and very reliable recipe for classic lemon bars. Any criticism of either too much crust, not enough filling, too sweet or tart, or not sweet or tart enough is purely subjective, and can easily be tweaked to suit individual tastes and preferences. Having made lemon bars many times in the past, and knowing that I like a thicker filling than the standard 4-egg filling for a 9x13" pan, I chose to use 1-1/2 times the filling for the same amount of crust, keeping all other measurements the same. I liked the addition of the lemon zest in this recipe, and found these to have the perfect balance of juice and zest for a just right sweetness and tartness. If possible, use either a non-melting powdered sugar, or sprinkle the powdered sugar right before serving, as it tends to melt into the bars quickly. I had a taste for something lemon today, and since these are so quick and easy to make they quickly satisfied the craving!
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901 users found this review helpful

Ruth's Grandma's Pie Crust

Reviewed: Feb. 1, 2008
This is a flavorful crust, perfectly suited to fruit pies. My only criticism is that it makes ALMOST enough for two, 2-crust pies...but not QUITE enough. This recipe as written, in my view, would make 3-single crust pie crusts. It was a stretch to make two double-crust pies, and I think this would have been particularly difficult for a novice baker. It would be better had the recipe indicated the yield.
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894 users found this review helpful

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