Best in Show

May 11, 2011

Have I mentioned before that I like to cook?

Oh, I haven’t? I like to cook. And bake.

I’ve also probably mentioned (a thousand times) that I like to try new recipes. I’d say that I try, on average, three or four new recipes per week.

But I also want to be the person who has a good arsenal of stand-by recipes. Things I can whip up at a moment’s notice and be confident that they will be terrific.

I think of Bart’s grandma who makes, without question, the best dinner rolls I have ever had. I myself have a pitiful track record when it comes to dinner rolls. But as a special Mother’s Day gift, the rolls I made on Sunday actually turned out phenomenally, and I am now, possibly, brave enough to attempt Bart’s grandmother’s recipe. And if they turn out, I will probably never try another roll recipe for Sunday dinner as long as live (lies! all of that last sentence is lies!).

Here are a few of the things I have made many many times and always feel happy about:

  • Chicken Pot Pie (I turn up my nose at pot pies with cream of anything in them. My mom ruined me for life)
  • Brownies (Bart, who had, just weeks earlier told me how he wasn’t really a brownie fan, now mentions these brownies on a weekly basis)
  • Baking Powder Biscuits 
  • Banana Pancakes (no need to go crazy with teh chocolate chips, although it’s certainly not a terrible thing if you include them)
  • Whole Wheat Pancakes
  • Oatmeal Pancakes (yes, I make a lot of pancakes. You want to say something about that?)
  • Waffles (the non-yeast kind. I have been disappointed in the yeasted waffles I have made thus far, not to mention that most of the recipes I see for them are swimming in butter, and I generally try to keep my breakfast items somewhat nutritious)
  • French Bread (worth the effort of all the mixing and rising)
  • Pepperoni Pizza
  • Carrot Puree
  • Croutons
  • Ranch Dressing
  • Wheat Bread (the first recipe)
  • Blueberry Coffee Cake
  • Skillet Chicken Orzo
  • Artichoke Dip
  • Chocolate Ice Cream

You all should come over for dinner and I’ll show you how awesome they are (or more likely breakfast – we’ll have a pancake buffet. Also, my secret to cooking perfect pancakes is to make the batter and then make Bart actually cook them).  (My other secret is to stop using dumb substitutes for buttermilk; man up and buy the real thing. It’s like the difference between margarine and butter, people. You’re fooling yourself if you think they are the same. And I clearly feel far too strongly about this and also maybe should take some medication).

    I am working on perfecting a beef stew recipe (Bart told me a year or so ago that he’s been searching for years for the best beef stew. I laughed outloud and asked him how many beef stews he’s made (you can guess the answer was “none.”)).

    And I am really on the warpath for a completely trustworthy chocolate chip cookie recipe (I made a version someone swore by a few weeks ago and they were, once again, a disappointment. WHY am I such a failure at this basic cookie?). And while I am certain the NY Times one will blow my mind, I also need one that I can whip up at a moment’s notice. This one from Annie’s Eats is my next trial.

    It’s all so subjective, of course. Someone raved up and down about their pizza dough recipe and then I tried it and Bart was all, “Um, what IS this dough?” and I replied “Something I’m never making again. Yuck.” Which is all to say, you might hate my pancakes (you would be wrong, but we could possibly still be friends).

    Anything you make that you are certain is the best ever of its kind?

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  • Reply Lisa May 11, 2011 at 11:40 am

    I have the world's best chocolate chip cookie recipe! It has oatmeal in it, but most people don't notice or care. It is NOT an oatmeal cookie though, not chunky like that. I would be happy to share with you but it occurs to me that I'm not sure where my recipe box is after the last move.

    We go through a ton of ranch around here, maybe I will try to make yours.

  • Reply Señora H-B May 11, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Pretty much anything I've ever made from America's Test Kitchen has been a screaming success: Coconut Layer Cake, New York Style Crumb Cake, Beef Stew, Cassoulet, Balsamic Vinaigrette.

    My grandma's chocolate chip cookie recipe is a family favorite. It's not overly sweet and uses shortening instead of butter. The cookies stay soft and you can put all kinds of mix-ins in the dough. They are my favorite, but I think some people probably think them bland.

  • Reply Melanie May 11, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Like you, I love to try out new recipes. While I do have some good standby recipes I go back to, I don't know that there is any one thing I am or will ever be known for.

    I find that replacing just a bit of butter with shortening helps create a great texture for chocolate chip cookies. I know, shortening is gross, but just 1/4 cup along with 3/4 cup of butter seems to work well.

  • Reply blaine and michelle May 11, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    I'm in the middle of a project right now of creating my personal arsenal of awesome recipes. I KNOW I make the best homemade tomato soup. Hands down. And I do have quite a good chocolate chip cookie recipe, though it's probably not the "best". I also make killer cinnamon rolls. And, though my husband swears my dinner rolls are the best in the world, I am not convinced. I don't really like them. I'll have to try some of these, because I love to try new things too.

  • Reply ssm May 11, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Re: beef stew, try the Julia Child beef bourginon (aah, spelled totally wrong) recipe. It takes FOREVER and is a total pain in the butt, but it's so, so good. I made it last month with modifications and Gregg and I literally licked our bowls clean (the dog was quite sad about that). The children hated it, of course, but who cares about them!

  • Reply Lexilooo May 11, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    I have to say that the chicken pot pie that I make is pretty darn great, and I don't use cream of anything either! What do you use in yours? Curious. I blogged about this yesterday, actually, as my chicken pot pie recipe was featured by one of my favorite blogs.

    I have an enchilada recipe that Steve loves, and I have a recipe for strawberry shortcake cookies that has become my go-to cookie recipe that people rave about when I make them. I've also made a beef stew in the crockpot a few times and it is excellent.

  • Reply Amy --- Just A Titch May 11, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    I'm pretty sure my Spanish Rice recipe (given to me by a friend, passed down by her grandma) is the best ever:

  • Reply Elsha May 11, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    I make pretty awesome apple or peach pie. I can't take all the credit though, because I use apples or peaches my parents grow at their house.

  • Reply RA May 11, 2011 at 2:24 pm

    Giant chocolate chip cookies! You must make them! And the obvious next step, enormous ice cream sandwiches!

    Okay, now that I have that out of my system, I always get rave reviews on my slow cooker chili, and I love love love Ina Garten's mushroom lasagna, even if it is horrendous for you.

  • Reply smalldog May 11, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    I LOVE when you do these posts, I get such ambitious ideas! Someday, I too will have an ice cream maker and will follow your adventurous lead.

    Three cheers for real buttermilk!

  • Reply Katie May 11, 2011 at 2:48 pm


    I have a crazy love/devotion for buttermilk. I basically always have it in my fridge. I love how long it lasts too! Miraculous stuff

  • Reply Allison Hansen May 11, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    I love trying new recipes, too! I make my chocolate chip cookie recipe so often, I have it memorized. I'll send it to you.

  • Reply Suey May 11, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    I totally agree with you on the real buttermilk and real butter thing. I'm also learning how to cook with with NO cream of anything soup at all! It's been interesting.

    Also, we failed at basic chocolate chip cookies until we found this recipe at

    Try it and let me know!

    Meanwhile, I'm going to try all those pancake variations!

  • Reply Jess May 11, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I love Smitten Kichen's desserts. The chocolate chip cookie recipe is now my go-to, although I don't include nuts:

    Also, these cardamom cookies are made of win. They're now my all-time favorite:

    I'm going to have to try those banana pancakes. Yum!

  • Reply Ali May 11, 2011 at 4:41 pm

    I agree with the Señora. America's Test Kitchen is ALWAYS a win for me. My husband keeps buying me their cookbooks because he likes the dinners I make from them so much!

    That said, my mom's Danish torte is my go-to dessert when we are invited to dinner. It uses a pre made pound cake, in layers, with essentially a chocolate chip/butter frosting in between. Let it set up in the freezer for a little bit, then serve with raspberry jam and fresh raspberries. It's so simple, but the flavors are so rich that it seems like it was a lot of effort.


  • Reply Kayla May 11, 2011 at 4:52 pm

    1. That french bread recipe is my go-to. It always turns out perfectly! Even with whole wheat!

    2. Amen to the buttermilk.

    3. What kind of cookie sheet do you have? A lot of times that makes a big difference in your cookies.

    4. I'm praying the pizza dough you hated wasn't mine.

  • Reply Emily Kate May 11, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    If you're not offended by the use of shortening, my mother's chocolate chip cookie recipe is really easy and I love it. Every time I've made it for other people it's gotten rave reviews. Of course everybody has a different preference in chocolate chip cookies; I prefer mine chewy and not flat/crunchy.

  • Reply jessica May 11, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    This could be a matter of taste, and maybe this is the same dough you despise, but I really cannot imagine straying from this pizza dough recipe –

    I usually make 4 dough balls at once and freeze 3… the frozen ones end up a tid-bit crunchy, but I don't see that as a bad thing.

    I double the recipe for each pizza, too, because I am a glutton and think the recipe makes a sadly itty-bitty pizza.

    Also, I don't really anticipate ever wanting to make a potato salad that is not this potato salad – Half mayo, half sour cream, and I usually add an extra egg because I love 'em.

  • Reply Peaceful Reader May 11, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    I'm hoping it wasn't my pizza dough recipe…I'm not sure I've posted about it but I do have friends who swear my dough recipe is delish.

    I'm going to have to try your pancake recipes. I love pancakes for dinner. I have bacon in my meat drawer, could be dinner tonight!

    Keep searching new recipes, it helps us all.

  • Reply Bethany May 11, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    I LOVE it when you share your recipes.

  • Reply Jessamy May 11, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    Yes, you've got an incredible stash of recipes! Some of the yummiest ones I've made came from you.

    I've yet to find a delish pizza crust but I make this pizza sauce and it is amazing especially with pepperoni:

  • Reply Erin May 12, 2011 at 12:19 am

    Let me know when you find the best beef stew. I'm somewhat afraid to try this dish again because last time it came out looking like gray matter. Abe heroically ate it for dinner and lunch the next day.

  • Reply Nicole May 12, 2011 at 12:59 am

    My chocolate chip cookies kept turning out flat…until I made two easy changes. It probably works with most recipes (but I always use real unsalted butter). Add one extra egg yolk so your cookies aren't flat. Substitute 1 3.5 oz package of vanilla pudding mix for 1/2 cup of the white sugar for a moist delicious cookie. Yum!

  • Reply B. May 12, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    I don't know what you look for in a chocolate chip cookie, but I have yet to find a person who doesn't love these (and crave them!). The touch of sea salt and the homemade brown sugar are the secrets.

  • Reply Meridith May 13, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Do you have a favorite chicken pot pie recipe? That sounds good tonight.

  • Reply Packrat May 13, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    Hmmm, I don't really care for pancakes or waffles. Never have. I'll eat them, but would rather not. I do like crepes if they are done all the way through.

    The trick with choc chip cookies is to find the perfect balance between the amount of flour and fat used. Add too much flour and the cookies are hard and dry. Add too much fat and they spread too flat and crumble at a touch. The baking time is critical, too. These things can change with the weather, flour, and brand of shortening/butter/margarine. Who would think that something as basic as a cookie could be so difficult?

  • Reply Jennifer Lee May 13, 2011 at 9:27 pm

    The NY Times chocolate chip cookie WILL blow your mind. I want to eat them all the time–seriously the best chocolate chip cookie I have ever had or made. However, that three day time frame makes it impossible for them to be a go-to recipe. If you find a great one you can make in an afternoon, please pass it along.

  • Reply emandtrev May 14, 2011 at 12:23 am

    I tried that chewy chocolate chip cookie recipe last night after you linked to it here. Yum-O!

    My favorite homemade/family recipes include a few baked pasta dishes, cream puffs, sugar cookies, my mom's pasta salad, and my own chocolate chip/coconut/butterscotch bars. Ahh…making myself hungry!

  • Reply Jill May 14, 2011 at 12:41 am

    Hot Fudge Sauce
    Various pastas
    Crock pot pulled pork

  • Reply Carly May 16, 2011 at 2:31 am

    I have very recently become a super star at the Lion House Rolls. I've made them more times than I can count in the last six months with perfect success every time!

    OTher things that are always a success:
    Chicken enchiladas
    Western Tomato soup
    homemade pizza
    sweet and sour meatballs
    (I'm sure there's more… but these are at the top of the list!)

  • Reply Carly May 16, 2011 at 2:33 am

    ok did I really fail to mention my version of healthy wheat waffles that I made AT LEAST once a week?

    Yes, those would actually be at the very very top of my success list.

  • Reply Peaceful Reader June 9, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Oh. My. The Chunky Monkey pancakes were made for lunch to celebrate the arrival of summer vacation and WOW! Yummy, Yummy.

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