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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Little Piggies In A Blanket with Veggie Wieners

This Little Piggy
This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none.
This little piggy went ...
Wee, wee, wee,
All the way home!

We all know that little nursery rhyme.  My mother played this little rhyme with me and I did it with my boys and we all do it with the grandchildren.  There's something so sweet about baby's tiny little toes. And then there are the shrieks of laughter with that tickle at the end.   The only little piggies that are around our house now (except when the babies visit) are wiener Piggies In A Blanket.  I like to wrap and bake veggie wieners in pastry and serve them with a tomato sauce for a tasty dinner.  Made smaller they make a dandy snack.

As I was searching through the fridge the other day, I came across a disk of pastry that I had only a foggy memory of making.  I decided I'd better put it in the freezer so it wouldn't go bad. Then today as I was frittering away time doing several small things (so it looks like I did nothing) I realized Don would be home in less than an hour and I had nothing planned except for green salad.  Hmmmm.... what to get for dinner?  Then I remembered that nearly forgotten piece of pastry and knew, today we would be eating Pigs in a Blanket.  I took the pastry from the freezer and threw it in the microwave on the thaw setting (and hoped for the best) and in no time I had it rolled out. I soon had a very nice dinner with the salad and few mashed potatoes.

Pigs in a Blanket was a meal I'd often make if I got on a pie making binge and had left-over pastry after the pies were done.  When the boys were little I'd cut each wiener in three pieces but as they got older and their plates got bigger I'd cut the wieners in half for larger servings.  These were even served at Peter and Vicki's wedding as they had picnic themed food at their reception. 

I think these are so much tastier than using a purchased wiener wrap.  Try them and I'm sure you'll agree.  If you have a crowd make sure you double the recipe as these are real pleasers.

Little Piggies In A Blanket
4 or 5 wieners, cut in thirds or halves
Cheddar cheese, optional
Mustard, optional

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  

Roll the pastry quite thin, but not so thin that it will tear.  Cut the pastry in 2½ x 2½-inch squares for snack size or 3½ x 3½-inch squares for dinner size.  If the wieners are extra long you may have to cut the squares a little bigger.  I always reroll the pastry scraps to make more squares. 

Place each wiener piece on a pastry square. If using the cheese and mustard add a small amount to each wiener. (See photos below.)  Brush a little water around the edge of the pastry square to help stick the pastry together. Roll the pastry around the wiener.  Pinch the ends closed.  It will look similar to an egg roll.

Line a cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper for easy cleanup.  Lay each "piggy" on the prepared pan with space between.  Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden.  

Makes  12-15 snack size or 8-10 dinner size pigs.

Double the recipe large appetites.

Pigs In A Blanket can be served as a snack with a ketchup dipping sauce or as a dinner entree with tomato sauce.

Roll out the pastry fairly thin.  I didn't have a large piece of pasty but it was just enough to make dinner for Don and me.

Centre the wiener and add cheese and/ or mustard if you wish.  I used half a wiener for each Little Piggy.

Brush water around the edges of the pastry.  This will help seal the pastry.

Now, roll up each wiener in the pastry as snug as a warm blanket on a cold winter's night. I told you it would look like an egg roll.  Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

And here are two Little Piggies In A Blanket drizzled with a warm tomato sauce. These little piggies were gobbled up by the big, bad wolf.

Tasty and Delicious   
No pigs were harmed in the making of this product.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Banana Buttermilk Cupcakes

Don't confuse these Banana Buttermilk Cupcakes with muffins because they are NOT muffins!  These are moist, cakey cupcakes, fragrant and sweet with banana.  You can eat them plain but they pair perfectly with Cream Cheese Frosting.  A Chocolate Buttercream Frosting will work as well.  They certainly dress up well for company. 

The original recipe came from Canadian Living. They were an immediate success the first time I made them.  Everyone enjoyed them and I had several requests to make more.  This is another one of those recipes I found while babysitting Benjamin when Anne went back to university.  Sometimes you can tell whether a recipe will be successful just by reading it and thus it was for Banana Buttermilk Cupcakes.  

The cupcakes use buttermilk, as the title says, but soured milk works just as well.  I seldom have buttermilk on hand so I use vinegar or lemon juice to sour the milk.  You will also need two ripe bananas.  They don't have to be totally black on the outside but they should be heavily spotted.  Mash the bananas very well.  I sometimes use a blender.  The smoother the banana the finer the cake crumb will be. 

Banana Buttermilk Cupcakes
½ cup butter, softened
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
¾ cup mashed, very ripe banana, about 2 bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla
1¼ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup buttermilk or soured milk (1½  teaspoons vinegar or lemon juice and enough milk to make half a cup)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line muffin pans with paper liners or grease. You will have 12-15 muffins from a regular-sized pan.

In large mixer bowl, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg until creamy. Beat in the mashed banana and vanilla.  You may notice the mixture separates but it will come together once the flour has been added.

In small bowl, mix or sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.   On low speed mix flour into butter mixture alternately with buttermilk.  Spoon into paper-lined or greased muffin cups.  You will get approximately 12 - 15 regular cupcakes. 

Bake in preheated oven 20 to 25 minutes.  Let cool 5 minutes and remove from pan and let cool on cake rack.

Makes 12-15 regular sized cupcakes.

Cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy.  Add the egg and beat again.  Don't forget the vanilla.  Beat in the mashed banana.

Add the flour alternately with the buttermilk to the creamed banana mixture.  Mix gently until thoroughly blended.  Spoon batter into prepared muffin pans.  I used small cups (not mini) and got 29 cupcakes.  If you use regular sized pans you will get 12-15 large cupcakes. 

When the cupcakes have cooled on a rack, ice with your favourite frosting or icing.  I piped Cream Cheese Frosting on these little gems.

I topped the Cream Cheese Frosting with a spoonful of chocolate ganache and a mini chocolate kiss. (The mini kisses come in a bag like chocolate chips.)

I just couldn't resist a bite!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Frying Pan Macaroni and Cheese

This isn't your regular one-pan or skillet meal that you may be familiar with but, nevertheless, it's a quick and easy meal to prepare.  If you love the crispy bits around the edge of a baked macaroni and cheese casserole you'll love this Fried Macaroni and Cheese.  Don't confuse this with the deep-fried macaroni and cheese bites or nuggets that are so popular on the internet.  This is actually a fried macaroni and cheese casserole! 

I found this recipe online some years ago but I can't find the site to give credit.  I've searched several times even doing an advanced search but could not find the source.  I've changed it some so it isn't quite the same as the original which called for a full half cup of butter!  That's a lot of butter and as the cheese oozes with fat as it melts I thought I'd cut the butter to 2 tablespoons which proved to be quite sufficient.

This dish can be put together in a matter of minutes, especially if you have the macaroni already cooked ahead of time.  I was going to make this for dinner the other day but I went shopping instead and by the time I got home it was too late to make it (and I was too full from eating out).  I had already cooked the macaroni and had it waiting in the fridge so it was only to postpone it until the next day. From start to finish, using the cooked macaroni, it only took about 15 minutes to make and have ready for the table. I started making at 11:45 a.m. and it was ready for Don's dinner as he came in the door at 12 noon. That's what I call a quick dinner.  In between turning the macaroni I was able to chop a few vegetables and lettuce for a salad to go along with the meal.  That's what I'd call a hard morning's work!

Fried Macaroni and Cheese
2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
3 eggs
⅛ teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese + ½ cup for top
2 tablespoons butter or oil

Cook macaroni according to package direction until al dente or to your liking, usually anywhere between 6-8 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water and drain again. You may now proceed with the recipe or refrigerate the cooked macaroni for a day or two until needed. 

In a large bowl beat the eggs, salt and pepper with a fork until well mixed together.  Add the 1½ cups cheese and drained macaroni and stir together.  Set aside. 

Heat a large non-stick or cast iron frying pan over medium heat and add the butter or oil.  When the butter is starting to sizzle add the macaroni mixture.  Fry on medium heat turning by sections as the bottom starts to cook and brown.

Cook until the eggs, macaroni, and cheese are all blended and you have lots of crusty golden brown sections.  Just before serving, sprinkle the remaining ½ cup of cheese over the top.

Makes 4-6 servings.  

Boil the macaroni until al dente or to your liking.  You don't want it too soft because it will continue cooking in the frying pan.  The macaroni can be used right away or placed in the refrigerator until ready to use in a day or two.

Beat the eggs together with the salt and pepper.  Add the cheese and cooked macaroni.  Add the mixture to the hot frying pan.

2 tablespoons of butter or oil is plenty for frying the macaroni and cheese.  I mixed half oil and half butter.  (The red reflection in the pan is the wall behind the stove.)

As soon as the macaroni starts to brown start turning in large sections.  I used my wide turner to do this.

Keep turning as the bottom browns and the eggs and cheese cook together.

Sprinkle the last half cup of cheese over the top of the finished macaroni and cheese.  Let it melt in before serving.

As the cheese melts the bottom will become lovely and crunchy.  How good is that? I love crunch.

Using already cooked macaroni Frying Pan Macaroni and Cheese is ready to serve in 15 minutes.  

Frying Pan Macaroni and Cheese
Cheesy and crunchy and so tasty.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Potluck Potatoes a.k.a. The Potato Casserole

The Potato Casserole has been around for years and years.  I have it in an old church cookbook from the mid 1970s and for sure it wasn't new even then.  "Be sure and try" is written under the title with good reason because this is so tasty.  Dare I use the term "moreish"?  Yes, that's what it is.  It's salty, crunchy, creamy, cheesy and tangy all at the same time.  I fell in love ♥ with The Potato Casserole the first time I tasted it so many years ago.  

Similar recipes are well known all over North America by several names but we (the church ladies) just call it "The Potato Casserole" and everyone knows what the other one is talking about. The main ingredients are almost identical to the other casseroles but most of those recipes are made with some kind of frozen hash brown potatoes.  This one differs in that fresh potatoes are used which gives it a slightly different flavour from its Hash Brown cousins. (I like Hash Brown Casserole as well.)

This casserole shows up at most church potlucks and also at family dinners.  It's a good side dish to serve as everyone seems to like it and it makes a load of servings. If you're lucky enough to have left overs it also tastes great the next day.  (I've been known it eat it for breakfast.) 

I've made a few changes to the original recipe which calls for ½ cup melted butter in the main casserole and another ¼ cup butter in the crumb topping.  I use only enough butter to cook the onions which is no more than 2 tablespoons and I only use another 2 tablespoons of butter in the crumb topping.  Who needs ¾ cup of butter in a dish that contains sour cream and cheese?  

Because The Potato Casserole is so rich in flavour and calories make sure you make this when there are family and friends to share with.  They'll be happy they were invited and you'll be happy for the compliments on your meal.  

The Potato Casserole
8 cups cooked potatoes, medium dice (cook in lightly salted water)
2 tablespoons butter (the original calls for ½ cup)
½ cup chopped onion, lightly cooked in the butter (I use about 1 cup of onions.☺)
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
1 can cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
2 cups sour cream (500 ml tub)
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
Pepper to taste

2 cups corn flakes, crushed into crumbs*
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a casserole dish, large enough to hold 10-12 cups. 

Lightly cook the onions in the first amount of butter.  The onions should just start to soften.  In a large bowl, combine together the diced cooked potatoes, cooked onions with butter, cheese, mushroom soup and sour cream  Add the salt and pepper.  You may want to taste the mixture before adding all the salt as cheese and mushroom soup are quite salty.   

Pour the potato mixture into a greased casserole dish.  I use a 9x13-inch dish.  Mix together the crushed corn flakes and the second 2 tablespoons melted butter.   Sprinkle the buttered crumbs over the potato mixture and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until bubbling.

Makes at least 15 good sized servings.  

*If you want a thicker layer of crumbs use 2 cups of corn flake crumbs instead of 2 cups of corn flakes, crushed.  You will need more butter if using more crumbs.

Here are the main ingredients of this tasty dish--potatoes, mushroom soup, onions, butter, cheese and sour cream.  Don't forget to taste for salt and pepper.

 Cook the onions in the first amount of butter.  Cook them until they start to soften.

Mix all the casserole ingredients together (but not the crumb topping) and place in a greased dish.

I like to sprinkle some of the cheese on top but that's not necessary.  I like cheese.

I crush the corn flakes into rough crumbs using my hands.  If you'd like a finer crumb use a rolling pin or place in a food processor.  Add the second amount of melted butter to the crumbs and mix thoroughly.

Sprinkle the buttered corn flake crumbs evenly over the top of the potato mixture.  I find the 2 cups of corn flakes crushed to be the perfect amount to give a nice even cover.  Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees or until bubbling and the top is crunchy.

 A lovely side dish at a family dinner of potluck.

Have a mouthful!

Crunchy, creamy, cheesy and tangy with sour cream.  
What's not to like?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Corn Cakes for Pancake Day

Tomorrow is Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday or whatever it is called in your end of the world.  In Newfoundland the Tuesday before Lent is called Pancake Day.  Although our family never observed Lent we certainly did keep the tradition of Pancake Day.  The thought of eating pancakes for supper was as exciting as finding money in them as pancakes weren't an everyday item on our menu.   Money was the prized find and that's what Mom would hide in most of the pancakes for my sister and me, but there were the other symbols as well. 

The Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site gives a little history of the day and its customs around the objects that could be found in a pancake: 
Pancake Night, or Shrove Tuesday, is typical of Newfoundland calendar customs. Derived from widespread customs in European traditions, and shaped as much by religious beliefs as by traditional divinational activities, it is a mixture of traditions, evolving continuously. Shrove Tuesday (named for the religious practice of confessing one's sins and being "shriven" or "shrove" by the priest immediately before Lent began) was a time to use up as many as possible of the foods banned during Lent: meat products in particular, including butter and eggs. Pancakes were a simple way to use these foods, and one that could entertain the family. Objects with symbolic value are cooked in the pancakes, and those who eat them, especially children, take part in a divinatory game as part of the meal. The person who receives each item interprets the gift according to the tradition: a coin means the person finding it will be rich; a pencil stub means he/she will be a teacher; a holy medal means they will join a religious order; a nail that they will be (or marry) a carpenter, and so on (cf. Hiscock 1990:9). 1999, Philip Hiscock Newfoundland & Labrador Heritage Web Site
Many families had their own meanings for what was found.   I remember a wedding ring meant you would marry, a pin or safety pin meant you would be a seamstress or tailor, money, of course, meant you would be rich.  A button meant you would be an old maid or bachelor, a piece of wood (a match stick or toothpick) or a nail meant you would be a carpenter and a piece of straw from the broom meant you would be a housewife or maybe it meant you would be poor!  I think that's what they meant.  It's been so long since I tore into a pancake and found Mom's wedding ring or a pin.  It was all in fun and we didn't believe the future was mapped out by anything we found in a pancake.

Our favourite find--MONEY.  Heather and I would be thrilled to find nickles, dimes and quarters.  That was a lot of money to have jingling around in your pocket.  I've had to upgrade to a Twoney ($2) because of inflation.

Since those days of childhood I've made thousands of pancakes.  I have a wonderful recipe for Mom's Pancakes which make delicious plain or blueberry pancakes but I often vary the pancake fare by making something different now and then.  Today I made Corn Cakes which are made with flour and cornmeal for a very nice textured and tasting pancake.  I like to add a little corn to the mix as well. 

These Corn Cakes are delicious with a little butter and syrup but they don't have to be relegated to the breakfast table.  They can be eaten at any meal in place of a bread or roll.  Corn Cakes can be served with soup or chili for a different and tasty side dish. 

Corn Cakes
½ cup cornmeal
½ cup flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar (may add more for a sweeter pancake)
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup milk
⅓ cup frozen corn kernels, thawed, optional
Oil for fying

In a medium size bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Lay aside.

In a small bowl, mix the beaten egg, oil and milk together.   

Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients lightly mixing until everything is blended.  There may be a few small lumps.  Don't over beat trying to remove the lumps.  If using the corn fold in.

Heat a griddle or frying pan over medium heat and add just enough oil to coat.  When the pan is hot fry pancakes until bubbles appear on the surface.  Turn and cook until golden.  

Serve hot with butter and syrup or use as a side dish to soup or chili.  

Makes 10-12 medium pancakes.

Gather the dry and wet ingredients:  Cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt and sugar; egg, oil and milk; and the optional corn.
 Mix the dry ingredients together.  Mix the wet ingredients together.

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry and combine lightly to mix.  Don't try to beat out the small lumps.

Fold in the corn if using.

 Fry Corn Cakes over medium heat on an oiled pan or griddle.

 Fry until bubbles appear on the surface.  

 Turn over and fry until golden.

Fluffy and delicious!

Corn Cakes and Chili and sour cream.  For those of you with more adventurous taste buds a few chopped chillies or red pepper flakes can be added to the Corn Cake batter before frying.

 A stack of Corn Cakes with butter and syrup.

Pancake Day treasures!  Lay the money or any other little objects on top of the batter.  Cover with a little more batter just to cover.  Fry as directed until bubbles form.

 Let the kids tear open the pancake to find the buried treasures.

Any day is Pancake Day with Corn Cakes!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Crunchy Lemon or Lime Squares

Have you ever found a recipe on the internet and really liked it and were so happy to have found such an easy and tasty recipe?   And then a few months or even years later as you were leafing through one of your old and beloved cookbooks found the same recipe and realized you'd had it for years and years?  Well, that's exactly how I found these Crunchy Lemon Squares.  I stumbled across the recipe on some blog or another, made them, loved them and passed on the recipe to one of my sisters-in-law, who also loved them.  And then a couple of years later I was looking through a little cookbook
published by the Borden company and there, much to my amazement, was the same recipe on the bottom of page 14.  I'd had it in my possession at least 30 years!  Who knew?  Not me it seems.  Well, I know where to find it now.  Funny thing is when I saw the recipe I knew I'd read it many times.  I guess it was the photo that accompanied the blog that really got my attention.  I guess the old adage "a picture is worth a thousand words" certainly played out in this instance.

I've made these Crunchy Lemon Squares many times and have even adapted the recipe into Blueberry Lemon Squares.  But this is the first time I've made them with lime juice.  I like lime flavoured desserts and drinks and I thought this would be a tasty variation on the recipe and I was right.  Both lemon and lime juice work to thicken the condensed milk and the grated rind gives that additional punch of flavour.  I make my own sweetened condensed milk and this works just like the canned stuff at the grocery store. 

These Crunchy Lemon or Lime Squares are quite sweet and rich so a small piece goes a long way.  They are best eaten within a day or two of making as the crust stays nice and crunchy.  Everything softens up after that and, although they still taste good, the texture is not crunchy.  The same thing happens when they are frozen.  But as no one seems to mind so I do freeze them when needed.  

I have modified the recipe slightly to include a little salt and the choice of pecans or walnuts.  And of course now they are renamed to include "Lime" in the title.  

Crunchy Lemon or Lime Squares   
1 can sweetened condensed milk, (300 ml in Canada, 14 oz in the US)

½ cup lemon or lime juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon or lime rind
Pinch of salt 

1 or 2 drops yellow (lemon) or green (lime) food colouring, optional
1 cup quick oats, uncooked
1 cup flour
½ cup flaked coconut
½ cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and line a 9 x 9-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

In medium bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk, lemon or lime juice, rind and salt.  You may use 1 or 2 drops of food colouring for a deeper colour.  Lay aside.

In a separate medium bowl, combine oats, flour, coconut, nuts, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter. Combine to form a crumbly, but not dry, mixture. Set aside.

Pat just over half of crumb mixture evenly on bottom of 9 x 9-inch baking pan. Spread sweetened condensed milk mixture on top and sprinkle with remaining crumbs.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool thoroughly before cutting.

Makes 9-36 servings.  It just depends on how big or small you cut them.   Store in refrigerator in a loosely covered container. 

Mix the sweetened condensed milk,  juice and rind and pinch of salt together.  Lime mixture on the left, lemon on the right.

The mixture will become thick and smooth and almost cheese-like, reminiscent of a ricotta cheese mix.

Mix the melted butter with the dry ingredients until a crumbly mixture is formed.  Press just more than half into a 9x9-inch pan.  Reserve remaining crumbs for the topping.

Spoon on the condensed milk mixture over the bottom crust.  Top with reserved crumbs.
Pat the crumbs firmly onto the top and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Cut into squares.  The size is up to you.  They can be cut in larger dessert squares or smaller finger size.  Lemon Squares on top.  Lime on the bottom.

 Refreshing Lemon or Lime Crunch Squares