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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Strawberry Pretzel Dessert

Strawberry Pretzel Dessert is so quick and easy to put together and everyone loves it.  A no-bake, creamy cheese cake filling sits atop a salty sweet pretzel base and everything is topped off with a mixture of strawberries set in strawberry gelatin dessert (Jell-o).  I served it for one of our Easter desserts this year and as the grandkids say, "It's yummy, good!"

This recipe is all over the internet.  Some call it a salad and some a dessert but they are one and the same thing.  The original recipe calls for frozen berries but if you can find fresh strawberries use them instead. 

Strawberry Pretzel Dessert
2 cups crushed pretzels
¾ cup melted butter
3 tablespoons sugar, plus ¾ cup sugar
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
3 cups whipped cream (1½ cups before whipping) or 3 cups whipped topping
2 (3-ounce) packages strawberry gelatin dessert mix (Jell-o)
2½ cups boiling water
About 4 cups strawberries, fresh or frozen, sliced
Whipped topping or whipped cream, to garnish


Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

For the crust, mix the crushed pretzels, melted butter, and 3 tablespoons of sugar. Press this mixture into a 9 by 13-inch pan and bake for 7-10 minutes until starting to turn golden brown. Set aside and allow to cool.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and ¾ cup of sugar. Fold in the cream/whipped topping, and spread over the cooled crust. Refrigerate until well chilled.

While the dessert is chilling mix the gelatin dessert mix with the strawberries. In a large bowl, dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water, and allow to cool slightly. Add the strawberries and let set until just starting to gel.  (If using frozen berries, add them frozen to the hot gelatin.) When partially set, pour over the cream cheese mixture. Refrigerate until set.  This should take about 3 or 4 hours.

To serve, cut slices and serve with a dollop of whipped topping.

Makes 15-18 servings.

Crush the pretzels using a rolling pin or stick them in a food processor.  I put the pretzels in a freezer bag and rolled them to the consistency I needed.  Add the melted butter and 3 tablespoons sugar and mix together. 

Press the pretzel crumbs in a 9x13-inch dish and bake 7-10 minutes or until starting to turn golden brown.  Set aside to cool. 

Beat the cream cheese and remaining sugar together.  Fold in the whipped cream/topping.  

Spread the cream cheese mixture over the cooled pretzel base.  Set aside to thoroughly chill.

While the base and cream cheses filling are chilling mix the strawberries with the gelatin dessert mix. Refrigerate until starting to gel. 

Pour the gelled strawberries over the cream cheese filling.  Refrigerate several hours until set.  Overnight is best. 

Fully set and ready to serve.

This is my piece!  The strawberries look like sparkling jewels.

Sweet and salty Strawberry Pretzel Dessert.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns!
Hot cross buns!
One a penny, two a penny,
Hot cross buns!

If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons.
One a penny two a penny,
Hot cross buns!

It's that time of year again when Hot Cross Buns abound in the grocery stores and the Easter Bunny is preparing to leave chocolate eggs all over the house and yard. (Poor bunny would freeze here.)  Hot Cross Buns were a favourite treat when I was a child.  Mom never made them but she always bought them around this time of year.  For me, the icing cross on the top of the bun was my favourite part. Mom always made more icing and re-topped the bought buns with a more-than-generous icing cross.  She claimed the bakeries were too skimpy with the icing.

Fifty years ago, Easter season was the only time Hot Cross Buns were available in the stores but now they start appearing as early as January and I imagine they can be bought year-round in some places, and no wonder--they taste so good.  It's odd I don't make them more often.  In my quest to post the PERFECT Hot Cross Bun recipe, I started a couple of months ago making these delicacies.  I believe I am now on my fourth trial (fifth, if you count last year) and am pleased with the results. (Of course, the other poor buns were eaten with great relish.)  Ordinarily, I would mix up a batch and we'd eat them, smacking our lips in happy contentment wondering if we should have just one more.  But, that wasn't good enough to be forever immortalized in cyberspace, so my quest began. . .  More fruit? Less fruit?  Raisins or currents or both?  Candied peel or zest or both or make them optional?  Baked on cross or icing cross?  To glaze or not to glaze? (Sorry Mr. Shakespeare.)  As you can see from the recipe, some of these options I've left up to personal choice.  I used almost everything except currents, but only because I didn't have any.  

I also didn't use the baked on cross, made from a flour and water paste, like the English do, because when baked it was like trying to chew on a piece of leather. I tried this last year but I pulled off the crosses and filled in the gap with icing crosses. 

Anyhoo, here's my perfected recipe.  Set aside a loooong morning to make these.  But, you'll be happy you did.

Hot Cross Buns 
1¼ cups warm milk
3 tablespoons melted butter or oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
2½ - 3 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon fast rising yeast
1-2 cups sultana or golden raisins or currents or a mixture of both
⅓ cup mixed candied lemon and orange peel, finely chopped, optional
Grated rind of a lemon or orange, optional

Apricot jam for glaze, optional
Thin buttercream icing for crosses, see recipe below

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or you may do this by hand in a large mixing bowl), add the warm milk, egg, butter, salt, sugar, 2 cups flour, spices and yeast.  Mix on low speed until everything  is incorporated and a very soft, sticky dough is formed.  Continue adding flour until the dough is still soft and pliable and not dry. You may not use all  the flour.  Add the raisins and peel and continue to knead on low speed for 10 minutes until you have smooth and elastic dough. 

Place the dough in a large oiled bowl and cover with a clean dish towel or plastic wrap.  Place in a warm spot in the kitchen and let rise about 1½ hours or until the dough has doubled.  Punch the dough down and let rise the second time for an additional hour or more until doubled.  You can skip the second rising but you will have a far superior bun with the second rising. 

When the dough has risen double, turn out on a floured surface and cut into 12 -18 equal pieces, depending on how large you like your Hot Cross Buns.  I like them a little smaller so I usually go for the eighteen.  But it's up to you.   Shape into round buns and place on a greased pan.  You can have the buns just barely touching for a higher baked bun or have them separated an inch for a lower rise. Loosely cover the buns with a clean towel or plastic wrap and let double.  This will take at least an hour or hour and a half. 

During the last 15 minutes of rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  When the buns have doubled in size bake 15-20 minutes to a golden brown colour.  Remove from oven and while still hot brush with a little warm diluted apricot jam.  Cool completely and use the Thin Buttercream Icing to make crosses on each bun. 

Thin Buttercream Icing
1 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon soft butter
Few drops of vanilla
2-3 tablespoons milk or water, as needed for the correct consistency

Mix all the ingredients together to form a thin icing that will pipe easily onto the buns.  Most glazes do not use butter but I like the taste better with a little butter.  It also remains creamier and doesn't dry out and crumble on the bun.
Makes about 12-18 buns. 

The buns may be eaten as they are or split and spread with butter or jam.  After a day or so the buns can be split, toasted and buttered for a delicious breakfast or anytime treat.  

Place most of the ingredients in the bowl.  Use only 2 cups of the flour to begin with and add more until the desired consistency is achieved.  Mix in the fruit and knead 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.  

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and let rise until double, about 1½ hours.  Punch down and let rise again.  Turn the dough out on a floured surface and cut into 12-18 equal portions.  I cut 16 buns and they were quite large.  

Form each portion into a round bun and lay on a greased baking sheet or pan.

Let the buns rise until double about 1 - 1½ hours.  

You can also make the Hot Cross Buns smaller, similar in size to a dinner roll.  

Bake the buns in a preheated oven 15-20 minutes until golden brown.
If you wish, brush each hot roll with apricot jam diluted with a little water. 

To make the Thin Buttercream Icing, combine all ingredients and blend until desired piping consistency.  If the icing is too thick add a little more liquid and if too thin add a little more icing sugar.  Place the icing in a piping bag with a round tip.  If you don't have a piping bag, use a freezer bag and snip off the corner.

Frost each bun with a generous cross of icing.  These are the smaller buns.

These are the larger buns.  They were sooooo spicy good.

Eat the Hot Cross Buns with or without butter.  Some people like jam as well. 

What a tasty Easter treat!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Veggie Burger Roast

Veggie Burger Roast is a delicious combination of veggie burger, onions, mushrooms and bread cubes baked in a savoury egg custard mixture.  Perfect for dinner with mashed potates and vegetables but left-overs are fabulous in sandwiches as well. 

Remember the corn flake advertisement that said "Taste them again for the very first time"?  Well, that's how I feel about Worthington Vegetarian Burger--the veggie burger that comes in a can.  I haven't had it in years but just last week I bought a can and, wow, it really tastes so good, not like I remembered it did.  I couldn't stop tasting the burger as it fried with the onions and mushrooms.  

Veggie Burger Roast is now my new favourite vegetarian "meat".   I made this on Friday and took it to church for potluck on Sabbath and there wasn't any left--not even enough to scrape together to lick out the dish.  Sunday I bought another can of the Vegetarian Burger and made half a recipe for Don and me.  We'll have three meals from it.  Sunday we had it with mashed potatoes, gravy and vegetables.  Today we had it cold with beet and mustard salads and tonight or tomorrow we'll have the last two pieces in a sandwich or warmed with more potatoes.  

I didn't put any cheese in my roast because on Sabbath I served it with a very cheesy pasta dish and figured that was enough cheese, even for a potluck.  Sunday, I again made it without cheese because I wanted to get a good taste of the roast without the cheese.  (I didn't get a good taste on Sabbath because I only had a small piece.) I didn't use the green or red pepper because I didn't have any and didn't want to go to the grocery store.  They are optional but would make a tasty addition to the roast.  

Veggie Burger Roast
1 large onion, diced, about 1 cup
2 cups diced fresh mushrooms or 1 can, drained and chopped
½ cup diced green or red pepper, optional
1 tablespoon oil   
1 20-ounce/567 gram can Worthington Vegetarian Burger or your favourite veggie burger              
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
Black pepper to taste
½ teaspoon each dry basil, oregano & savoury
4-6 slices two day old whole wheat bread, buttered on both sides and cut into cubes
4 eggs
2 cups milk
½ teaspoon steak spice or seasoned salt
1 cup grated cheddar cheese, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease or pan spray a 9x13-inch baking dish.

In a large frying pan over medium heat, sauté the onion, mushrooms and pepper, if using,  in the tablespoon of oil.  When the vegetables are soft, add the vegetarian burger.  Sprinkle with the salt and pepper.  Break up the burger with a fork and heat through, lightly browning.  You will need to stir the mixture to keep it from sticking or burning.  Remove from heat and place the burger mixture in a large bowl. 

Clean frying pan and add the buttered and cubed bread.  The recipe calls for 4-6 slices of bread. Judge how many slices you will need to fill the bottom of a large frying pan.  My slices were small so I used 6 slices.  Fry the bread over medium heat until lightly toasted. Sprinkle with the dry herbs while the bread is frying. You could also bake them in the oven, if you prefer.  Add the toasted bread cubes to the burger mixture and mix together.  If you are using the cheese you can add it now or wait to sprinkle on top of the roast.

Place the burger and bread mixture in the prepared baking dish. Spread the mixture but do not pack down firmly.  Beat the eggs, milk and steak spice together and pour over the burger.  You may sprinkle with cheese, if using or if you have not mixed it in the burger.  Let stand at least 30 minutes to let the bread soak up the liquid. 

Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until the middle has cooked and is no longer liquid.

Serve hot with gravy and mashed potatoes or anything you like.  Makes 12-15 servings.  

Sauté the onion, mushrooms and pepper, if using,  in the tablespoon of oil.  When the vegetables are soft, add the vegetarian burger.  Lightly brown the burger while breaking it up with a fork. 
Butter 4-6 slices whole wheat bread on both sides.  Use a nice homemade style bread that is a little stale.  Cut the bread in cubes.

Brown the bread cubes in the cleaned out frying pan.  You can also bake them in the oven, if you wish.  Sprinkle the herbs over the bread while they are frying.

In a large bowl, gently mix the burger and bread cubes together. 

Place the burger and bread mixture in the prepared baking dish. Spread the mixture but do not pack down firmly.  

 Beat the eggs, milk and steak spice together. . . 

 . . . and pour over the burger in the baking dish.

Let the roast sit at least 30 minutes before baking so the bread can soak up some of the liquid.  

 Bake the roast 45 minutes or until the centre is set.

Serve the Veggie Burger Roast with mashed potatoes, gravy and a few vegetables for a well-rounded meal. 

 Here's to a delicious dinner!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Pie with Chocolate Coconut Crust

If you like peanut butter, chocolate and coconut, do I have a pie for you!  Save this pie for a special occasion or share with family and friends.  The rich no-bake peanut cheesecake filling sits atop a fudgy coconut base which serves as the crust.  Topped with whipped cream and chocolate covered peanuts, this pie is a delightful and delectable dessert for your family celebrations or dinner parties.

I never made plans to post a pie recipe on "pi" day, but here I am doing just that.  Do you remember pi?  I have foggy memories of using pi in high school geometry class and possibly in a college astronomy class. . . something to do with circles???  With Google to the rescue and a refresher course at Wonderopolis, the memories were dusted off and A=πr2 (Area of circle = pi (3.14) x radius squared) was no longer a mystery.  Back in the 1960s and early 70s we had to do all calculations with our brains and a pencil.  What a chore that was.  As my life's work did not take a mathematical route I have never needed to find the area of a circle since those far off school days. . .  I leave that to the experts.  

You won't need a geometric equation to enjoy this Peanut Butter Cheesecake Pie.  Just use a knife to cut a wedge (oh, no, that's a geometric solid!) and a fork or spoon to get it into your mouth and this will be the only "pi"e you'll want today.  

This Peanut Butter Cheesecake Pie is a recipe from one of Mom's old cookbooks (Family Favorite Recipes).  I've had it for years and had it checked off as a recipe I'd like to try someday.   Well, "someday" came on Friday.  I made it and shared it with family and friends over the weekend.  It was well received by everyone and one or two people even had seconds.  Peter, who hates coconut, ate the filling and left the fudgy coconut crust on his plate.  Strangely, the crust disappeared off his plate before the dishes were washed.   (I'm not pointing my finger at anyone, but a couple of grandmothers had tell-tale chocolate on their fingers and around their mouths.)

I would recommend you share this pie if you make it.  It is so rich and creamy good, a small piece is more than sufficient. 

Happy "Pi Day" to you all.  

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Pie with Chocolate Coconut Crust

2 tablespoons butter
2 squares unsweetened baking chocolate (2 ounces/60grams)
½ cup icing sugar
3 tablespoons hot water
1½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Melt butter and chocolate over low heat.  Mix icing sugar with hot water and combine with chocolate.  Stir in coconut.  Press the mixture into and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate or use a 9-inch springform pan.  Refrigerate while making the filling.

1 cup smooth or crunchy peanut butter
¼ cup butter, room temperature
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups whipping cream, whipped and divided OR 3 cups whipped topping, divided

In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter, butter and cream cheese.  Beat until fluffy.  Gradually add the sugar, beating until the sugar is well combined and no longer gritty.  Beat in the vanilla.  Take two-thirds (2 cups) of the whipped cream and fold into the peanut butter mixture. Reserve the remaining whipped cream for garnish. Spoon the peanut butter filling into the chilled pie crust.

1 cup reserved whipped cream from above
1 snack size package chocolate covered peanuts, chopped

Pile remaining whipped cream (1 cup) onto the filling.  Sprinkle chopped chocolate covered peanuts over the cream.  Chill at least 3 hours or overnight before serving.  The pie may also be frozen and slightly thawed before serving.  

Makes 10-12 servings or 6-8 larger pieces.

Unsweetened baking chocolate comes in 1 ounce/28 gram squares or pieces.

Melt the unsweetened chocolate and butter together over low heat.  I used a heat proof bowl sitting over a simmering saucepan of water.

Pour 3 tablespoon hot water into the icing sugar and mix until well dissolved with no lumps remaining.  Pour the sugar into the melted chocolate and butter mixture and stir until smooth.

Stir the sweetened coconut into the chocolate mixture.  Press into a 9-inch pie plate or springform pan.  Chill while making the filling. The coconut crust will not be crisp but more like a chocolate fudge texture.  The crust is reminiscent of the much loved Newfoundland Snowball cookies/

Whip the peanut butter, butter, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together.  Beat until light and fluffy and the sugar is no longer gritty.

Fold in the whipped cream.  You will need 2 cups of whipped cream or whipped topping.
Keep folding.  You will not want any streaks of cream showing through.  This is almost ready for the pie shell but I still needed to fold a little more.

Pile the filling into the chilled crust.  The filling recipe makes for a very full pie. 

Chocolate covered peanuts can be found in most grocery stores in the candy section.  Chop as many as you'd like to garnish the top of the pie.

Garnish the top of the pie with the remaining 1 cup of whipped cream and the chopped chocolate covered peanuts.  As you can see I also used a little ganache as a garnish.

Mmmmm....doesn't that look creamy and delicious!

A celebration dessert for a special occasion.