A Cook Book Review: Dollars to Donuts

by Joanne on January 26, 2010

“Comfort Food & Kitchen Wisdom From Route 66’s Landmark Rock Cafe”.  This is a book that has hit the shelves at such a perfect time.  We are all watching our wallets.  We all want to make good food –FAST.  We want to keep our old recipes but spice them up a bit.  This book offers all that.  NOTE:  It is not a Vegetarian cookbook, however does offer some meatless options.


By Dawn Welch with Raquel Pelzel,  smart strategies offering a more efficient and economical dinnertime. 

The code:  On each recipe there are icons:  And arrow indicates the recipe can be made ahead of time.   A smiley face means that the recipe is kid-friendly.  A clock points out recipes that are super quick and easy.  A snow flake means its good for freezing.

Underneath the codes are some dollar$ figures:  $XX.XX / $X.XX.  The total cost of the recipe over the cost per serving.  Great way to watch our pennies!


I’ve made a few of the recipes out of this book.  Each one was just as good as any gourmet meal we could order out.

Recipe #1: (This one’s for Ted to satisfy his “meat” tooth”)

Middle Eastern Kebabs & Cucumber-Radish Salad




  • 10 radishes, trimmed, washed, and thinly sliced
  • 2 large cucumbers, washed and thinly sliced
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fine chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 TBS fresh chopped mint (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp salt



  • 1/2 recipe meatball mixture (about 2 1/2 lbs , page 24)
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 TBS sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4  tsp ground cinnamon

Make the salad: Place radishes, cucumbers, lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, mint (if using) and salt in a large bowl and toss together. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 4 hours.

Mix the meat:  Adjust an oven rack to top position and heat broiler to high. Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside.  Place the mixture, nuts, sugar, cumin, oregano, allspice, cinnamon in a large bowl and mix to combine.

Shape and Broil the Kebabs:  Divide the meat into 24 pieces and shape into oblong torpedoes. Thread 3 lengthwise onto each of 8 wooden or metal skewers and place the skewer on the baking sheet. Fold a sheet of foil in half lengthwise and place of the skewer bottoms to keep from burning if using wooden skewers.  Broil the kebabs until browned 5 – 6 minutes. Turn over ad broil another 4 –5  minutes. Serve hot or room temp with salad on the side.

Dawn offers a “Shop Smart” tip at the bottom of this recipe: When she sees a sale on different meat varieties, she buys them and freezes for a “meatball marathon” on another day.

Recipe #2:

Coriander Sugar-Rubbed Salmon, page 90.  The codes: Smiley (Kid Friendly) and an Arrow (can be made ahead of time).  The dollar figures:  $13.80/$3.45.

This recipe was SO good. It just might become the only way we ever do salmon in this house.  We even told Ted’s brother about this one.  It’s a keeper.


  • 1 1/2 TBS coriander seeds (I used ground)
  • 1 1/2 TBS cumin seed (I used ground)
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns (I used ground pepper)
  • 1 TBS fennel seeds
  • 3 TBS brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 salmon fillets (6 oz each) – we had 3 fillets
  • 1 tsp canola oil (I used olive)

Make the Rub:  Toast the coriander, cumin, and peppercorns in a skillet over med-hi heat for 2 minutes, stir often.  Add fennel seed and continue to toast until fragrant and cumin seeds brown, additional 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a rimmed sheet pan or plate to cool, and then place in a grinder along with the sugar and salt to pulverize  to a fine powder.  Transfer 2 TBS to a wide shallow dish.  The rest can be stored in an airtight container or jar and placed in a cool,dark spot for up to 1 month.  *I used all ground spices (except the fennel which I left whole).  I did toast the spice mix in the toaster oven on high for 1 minute.  I used all the rub on 1 1/2 lb salmon.

Prep the Salmon:  Place the salmon on a work surface and feel for bones. Remove with tweezers.

  • Press the rub into the top side of the salmon.  Set on large plate. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.

Roast the Salmon:   Adjust oven to upper position and 1 in the middle. Heat to 400 F.  Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly grease with oil.  Place fillets, skin side down (if they have skin  – I had the skin removed from mine) and roast in the middle rack until fillets are cooked on the outside but still quite pink in the middle (5 – 7 minutes). 

Turn on the broiler and move to top rack , broil until sugar just starts to bubble, 1 – 2  minutes (watch your salmon carefully, as broiler intensity varies and the sugar can quickly burn).  Remove from the oven and transfer the salmon (with or without the skin) to individual plates. Serve immediately. 

Recipe #3

Cajun-Style Red Beans & Rice: Great recipe for left over rice and TERRIFIC. So much flavor.  I haven’t had rice this good in a while and I eat a lot of rice.


The codes: Arrow (make ahead). Smiley (kid friendly).  Clock (quick & easy).  Snow Flake (good for freezing).  Dollar code: $3.40/$.85


  • 1 TBS canola oil (I used olive oil)
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, fine chopped (I used celery because I didn’t have a pepper)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 TBS chili powder
  • 1 TBS Tex-Mex Rub (3 TBS chili powder, 1 TBS ground cumin, 1 TBS dried oregano, 2 tsp. garlic powder, 2 tsp sweet paprika.)
  • 1 can (14 oz) pinto beans – drained and rinsed.
  • 3 cups cooked white rice
  • Hot pepper sauce (optional)

Heat the oil in large skillet over med-hi heat. Add onion, bell pepper (celery), salt, and black pepper and cook, stir often, until onion soft, 3 –4 minutes. 

Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then add the chili powder and Tex-Mex Rub.  Cook, stir often for 2 minutes, then mix in the beans and rice. Continue cooking and stir until the beans and rice and heated through, about 5 minutes.   Add water if it looks like the spices or rice are sticking.  Serve with hot pepper sauce (optional).

I just HAD to  try one of the dessert recipes from this book.

On page 244 is the best pie you will ever taste:  Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Pie with Press-In Butter Crust.


The description says it is basically a thrifty pecan pie using oatmeal instead of nuts.  Unbelievably delicious. 

Code: Snowflake = freezes well.  Smiley = kids will love it.  Arrow = make ahead.

Dollar information:  $6.80 / $.85

  • Crust:  (I cheated and used a store bought freezer crust…I had it and had to use it. Next time, and there WILL be a next time for this recipe, I’m going to make this great looking crust)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter – room temp
  • 1 lg egg yolk
  • 2 TBS heavy cream or whole milk
  • 2 TBS sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (extra if needed)
  • Filling:
  • 3 lg eggs + 1 lg egg yolk – lightly beaten
  • 1 cup corn syrup (I used 1/2 cup maple syrup instead)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 TBS dark brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • 1 3/4 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Make the crust: Place oven rack in lowest position and preheat oven to 350 F.

Stir the butter in a large bowl until smooth. Add the egg yolk, 1 TBS cream or milk, sugar, and salt and stir to combine.  Add flour. Work it into the butter mix by smearing it against sides of bowl. Once dough is in the form of large, rough clumps (add more milk if necessary) turn it onto a lightly floured surface, knead it until it comes together – chill and form.

Press dough into a flat disk and transfer to 9” pie plate. Press evenly on bottom and up sides. Use flour to press if it’s too sticky.  Run knife around rim of pie plate to make a clean edge then press fork into edge to make a pattern.  Freeze for 30 minutes or while you prepare filling.

Filling:  Whisk the eggs and additional yolk, syrup, sugars, vanilla and salt in a large bowl, and then use a wooden spoon to stir in oats and chips.  Pour into cold shell and bake until crust is set and starting to color, about 20 minutes. 

Reduce oven temp. to 325 F and bake another 30 –40 minutes.  The center should jiggle a little when side of the pie is tapped.  Cool to room temp. before slicing and serving.


There are so many tips and trick offered with each of these recipes, I wish I could get them all in this post.  Instead, check out this site about Dawn and get this book yourself

Super book, terrific recipes.


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  • At 2010.01.26 10:17, Nicole. RD said:

    Wow! This was such a neat post! I am definitely buying that cookbook! I live in Oklahoma, so this was such a great read and restaurant to come across! Thank you! And the recipes look delicious, easy enough, and cost effective! Love, love, love it!

    • At 2010.01.26 12:50, Joanne said:

      Nicole: Thanks. It’s a really unique cookbook by way of the codes offered and all the tips. Great find.

      • At 2010.01.26 20:29, Lori (Finding Radiance) said:

        I have this book as well and really like it! I made the Chicken and Dumplings and they were quick and easy 😀

        • At 2010.01.26 23:12, Dawn said:

          WOW! Thanks so much for going the extra on my recipes!! They look amazing and I’m excited to hear more from you on addtional tips and ideas. You seem to really get it! Thanks again and I hope we can chat more about food and cooking!

          • At 2010.01.27 11:25, Joanne said:

            Lori: I’ll have to see if you posted that recipe.

            Dawn: Thanks for commenting. Love the book.

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