As basic as it seems, oatmeal is like an artist’s canvas with unlimited ways to prepare, cook and bake it. During the economic depression of the 1930’s, everything was in short supply. Sometimes oatmeal was substituted for expensive pecans, resulting in a delicious oatmeal pie that tasted similar to a pecan pie. It also became known as ‘mock pecan pie’ or ‘poor man’s pecan pie’.
There are a great many recipes for oatmeal pie on the internet. Some use molasses, some brown sugar and others, a combination of the two. I’ve also seen the pie having coconut in it. For me, I’m not big on molasses or coconut so I decided to just go with the brown and white sugar version. For the pastry, it is one of my favorite single crust shells using a cornmeal/flour mix. Instead of making a single pie, I opted for tarts and served them with a bit of whip cream. Brion and I could really understand how this ‘mock’ oatmeal pie made a good substitute for a pecan pie.
In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a food processor, pulse cornmeal for a few seconds. Add flour, & salt; pulse just to combine. Empty mixture into a medium bowl; cut in butter until mixture resembles small peas. Add sour cream/ water mixture, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute & forms a dough. Wrap in plastic wrap & refrigerate until filling is ready.
In a large bowl, combine brown sugar, oatmeal, sugar & salt. Add milk, eggs, butter & vanilla; stir until fully combined.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place pie dough between two sheets of plastic wrap; roll it fit a 9-inch pie pan. Pour filling into pie shell & place in oven. Bake 45-50 minutes or until tests done. Centers will rise slightly when baked & become flat when cooled. Allow to cool 10-15 minutes. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
If you can, allow the pastry to cool for a longer period of time.
Despite our ever present nostalgia for the foods of childhood, tastes and recipes are always evolving. I came across this recipe in a Taste of Home magazine recently. It has all the flavors of a favorite casserole come together in the comfort of ‘mac & cheese’.
During the Great Depression era, the idea for boxed macaroni and cheese was born when a salesman used a rubber band to pair packets of the then newly developed, grated Kraft cheese with boxes of pasta and convinced stores to sell them. In 1937, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (known as Kraft Dinner in Canada) was introduced with the slogan ‘make a meal for four in nine minutes for the cost of around nineteen cents’. It was an immediate success in the USA & Canada.
Traditional mac & cheese is a casserole baked in the oven, however, it may be prepared in a saucepan on the top of the stove. This particular casserole recipe takes the whole idea to a new level. Chicken, bacon, macaroni, three cheeses and Ranch dressing! I had tasted ranch dressing on chicken and bacon pizza so why not? Brion and I loved the end result making it a ‘keeper’ in our meal rotation.
In a large pot, cook macaroni to al dente stage; drain & return to pot. Lightly butter a 13 x 9-inch baking pan; set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium saucepan, melt butter. Stir in flour, salt & pepper until smooth; gradually whisk in milk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook & stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in cheeses until blended. Stir in ranch dressing. Add chicken & sauce to macaroni, tossing to combine. Transfer to baking dish.
Toss bread crumbs with melted butter; sprinkle over macaroni. Top with bacon. Bake, uncovered, 30-35 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Sprinkle with minced parsley.
Crumble, a dish of British origin, can be sweet or savory. The sweet variety generally contains stewed fruit with a crumbly topping of butter, flour and sugar. A savory version uses meat, vegetables and sauce for the filling, with cheese replacing sugar in the crumble mix.
Crumbles and crisps are very similar. They both contain fresh fruit with a streusal-like topping. The original difference between the two was in the topping: crisps would contain oats and crumbles would not. Overtime the lines have blurred and the names crumble and crisp are now used interchangeably.
Oatmeal ‘anything’ is very nostalgic for me. I can’t remember one thing my mother made using oatmeal that I didn’t like, including ‘porridge’. Oatmeal is still as much a staple in our pantry as it was in my mothers.
For this dessert, I thought it would be unique to add a little caramelized twist to an old classic crumble. Caramelization is a chemical change that makes naturally occurring sugars in fruit, when gently sauteed in butter, turn brown and quite flavorful. The combination of caramelized bananas, fresh mango and lemon juice topped with a spicy crumble is wonderful (and easy).
Preheat oven to 350 F. On a parchment lined baking sheet, slice bananas into discs. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp brown sugar & bake for about 10 minutes or until caramelized. Remove from oven. In a medium bowl, place mango, 1 Tbsp sugar & lemon juice. Mix until combined; add Caramelized bananas & toss gently. Spoon fruit mixture equally into 2 or 4 ramekins.
In a small dish, toss together all of the crumble ingredients, using your fingers to combine. Divide crumble between ramekins. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with either ice cream or whipped cream.
Mug cakes have been around for a while. We seem to like eating food out of mugs. Whether it’s a mug full of chili or just some cereal and milk, we like being able to hold our whole meal in our hands and enjoy it by the spoonful. Mug cakes have gained popularity not only because they are delicious, but because you can make them in five minutes. The technique uses a mug as the cooking vessel and takes just a few minutes to toss in the ingredients. It then goes into the microwave; as the butter in the mixture heats up, it creates air pockets that will cause the cake to quickly rise. The problem is that microwave baking is tricky and not every ‘cake-in-a-mug’ recipe you come across will work well.
I’ve tried a few with varying degrees of success. Nevertheless, they are a great way to satisfy an emergency homemade treat craving without even turning on the oven.
In a small bowl, combine apple with sugar & butter. Divide between 2 mugs. Cover each with plastic film & pierce several times. Cook in microwave for 1 minute at 800 watts or 50 seconds at 1000 watts. Add dried fruit & nuts & stir.
In a bowl, combine butter, brown sugar, oatmeal, flour & salt with your fingertips. Crumble on top of fruit in each mug. Microwave for 1 1/2 minutes at 800 watts or 1 minute 10 seconds at 1000 watts. Remove mugs from microwave & sprinkle with sliced almonds.
CHOCOLATE MUG CAKE
In a small bowl, combine dry ingredients. Add milk & oil; whisk together until smooth. Divide between 2 mugs & microwave on high for about 70 seconds. Remove from microwave. Cool a bit before eating.
Be aware that success will depend on knowing how to adjust the cooking time according to YOUR microwave strength (watts). Be careful not to overcook your mug cakes.
I realize you have probably, long ago used up your (frozen) turkey leftovers from Christmas. Nevertheless, casseroles are always a good choice at this time of year. These satisfying blends of favorite flavors are easily assembled, can be made ahead and you don’t necessarily have to make them from leftovers. One-dish oven dinners are economical and can range from casual to elegant.
I recall making this particular casserole as one of the buffet entrees at a staff gathering. Wild rice is one of those foods you either like it or not, it seems to have no ‘middle ground’.
Wild rice is actually a semi-aquatic grass that has historically grown in lakes, tidal rivers and bays, in water two to four feet deep. It originated in the area of the upper Great Lakes which is both the USA & Canada. Because it is difficult to grow, with low yields per acre, wild rice usually costs more than other grains. To bring the cost down, it is often mixed with other grains (white and brown rice especially) rather than eaten on its own.
This casserole has a nice mix of ingredients. There seem to be numerous versions of the recipe but this is the one we enjoy the most. Hope it works for you.
Prepare wild rice mix, being careful not to overcook. In a saucepan, saute onions, mushrooms & celery in butter until softened. Add soup, sour cream, soy sauce & broth & heat through. Then add turkey, water chestnuts & prepared wild rice mix, stirring gently.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Place mixture into lightly buttered casserole dish. Bake for 25-35 minutes, gently stirring once. After stirring, top with chopped or slivered almonds.
The German New Years cake is a traditional round cake with three layers of different fillings: poppy seeds, nuts & apple. Going back to pre-Christian days, ring-shaped breads and cakes were always considered fortunate because they signified continuity by ‘coming full circle’ or ‘the circle of life’.
The start of the new year has a tenancy to turn even non-believers a bit superstitious. All around the world, New Years Day is filled with traditions and symbolic ritual with many of the traditions revolving around food. Certain foods symbolize wealth, prosperity, health and good luck for the coming year. In some cultures, cakes or bread have symbolic items baked inside.
Poppy Seed is believed to bring a year of abundance. Nuts are a symbol of new life and potential. Apples, along with healing properties should bring a ‘sweet new year’!
Keeping all that in mind, it seems like a good reason to invest some time into making this special layered GERMAN NEW YEARS CAKE.
In a large bowl, combine dough ingredients & knead until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap & place in refrigerator for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Poppy Seed Filling
In a small saucepan, combine all poppy seed ingredients. Place over LOW heat for 1-2 minutes; remove from heat & cool.
In a small bowl, combine all nut filling ingredients; set aside.
In a small saucepan, saute peeled & chopped apples over low heat with butter & sugar. Do not add any water as they need to be semi-soft, NOT MUSHY.
Assembly of Cake
Divide chilled dough in HALF, then divide one of the halves into THIRDS. Roll out the largest piece into a circle big enough to cover the bottom & sides of a 12-inch spring form pan. Make sure to have a bit hanging over the top of the ring.
Add the poppy filling. Roll out one of the small pieces of dough to fit neatly on top of filling. Gently cover with nut filling. Roll second small piece of dough; fit over nut filling. Add apple filling layer. Fold extra dough edges onto apples & top with third piece of dough. Your dough base & dividers should all be rolled quite THIN.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Beat egg & add a tiny bit of water. Brush it over top surface. Bake for about 1 hour & 20 minutes until golden. Remove from oven & place on a wire rack to cool. This cake is best if left in a cool place for a day or two before serving so the flavors will marry. Dust with a layer of powdered sugar before serving.
Whether you celebrate Christmas culturally, religiously or not at all, it seems a good time to evaluate your priorities to make sure you are truly doing what matters to you most. Christmas comes and goes each year during which the ‘Christmas Spirit’ is alive and well. Wouldn’t it be nice if that same spirit was applied to our daily lives all year long.
Today, December 25th, we celebrate my sister Rita’s birthday as well as Christmas Day. Our family’s Christmas eve birthday ‘parties’ hold many fond memories for me. After attending Christmas eve church service, upon returning home, we would be joined by family friends to have birthday cake and some homemade root beer. It was very important to my parents that a special birthday acknowledgement was made to Rita apart from the Christmas festivities.
Christmas is a nostalgic time of year for many of us — recalling simple family traditions. When it comes to holiday decorations, the thing I remember most were the ‘multitudes’ of Christmas cards that our family received in the mail. My mother would fasten string between doorways and windows to hang them all on each time we would receive another one. There was a limited amount of other Christmas decorations. We used the same ones year after year and that was what made them so special. They all had their own special place where they belonged, and once they were out, it truly felt like Christmas.
Probably, the most cherished item was a Christmas Manger set. This cardboard tabletop Nativity was published by Concordia Publishing House in early 1940’s from illustrations first produced by artist George Hinke. A base was provided with special tabs to hold the 17 lithographed figures upright; each tab being carefully labeled making it easy to assemble.
George Hinke was born in 1883 in Berlin, Germany where he studied as a painter. He immigrated to the United States in 1923.
I remember this Nativity scene vividly as the cardboard figures were so beautiful and accurately painted. It was sold in a cardboard box that contained assembly instructions. One of the trips Brion and I made to Italy was just after Christmas one year in early January. Thanks to the European mindset, the outdoor Christmas decor had not been tucked away for the season. The detail in some of the Nativity scenes was incredible. They brought back memories of that little ‘Christmas Manger’ set from many years ago.
For our Christmas dinner this year we are having something a little different from the traditional roast turkey. Turkey roulade lets you have all the traditional flavors of Christmas without having to go through the whole turkey cooking episode. Not only is it mouthwatering and tender, it’s easy to make, cooks quicker, a breeze to carve and looks super elegant. Now, there’s the matter of the stuffing. Equally essential to the holiday table, it’s a far more expressive medium than the turkey itself. You could say, it is the personality with countless options.
Today’s recipe is a turkey breast that has been flattened and stuffed with herbs, cranberries and hazelnuts. The roulade is wrapped with bacon to keep it moist and tucked into a half of a spaghetti squash. The drippings from the bacon and turkey flavor the squash perfectly as it bakes giving a tasty, earthy, vegetable side dish. Brion and I preferred some cranberry sauce and a traditional gravy with this meal but if you want to kick it up a notch you could serve a thin apple cider gravy instead.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RITA! ENJOY YOUR DAY AS WE CELEBRATE YOU WITH LOVE
In a medium saucepan, heat 2 T. butter. Saute onion, garlic & sage leaves, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes. Add bread crumbs, toasted hazelnuts, cranberries, chicken broth, Italian seasoning, salt & pepper; cook for another minute or so. Remove from heat & cool completely.
Using a sharp knife, 'butterfly' turkey breasts. Cover with plastic wrap, flatten them slightly with a meat tenderizer. Divide stuffing between the two breasts & spread it out evenly. Roll breasts up, place cut side down onto work surface. Wrap each roulade with 6 slices of bacon, tucking the ends under the turkey rolls.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Slice the spaghetti squash in half & scoop out the seeds. Place both haves on a large roasting pan & drizzle with olive oil. Roast 30 minutes. Remove squash from oven & place the bacon wrapped roulades into the cavity of the squash. Return turkey/squash roulade to oven, lower oven temperature to 350 F. & roast until the internal temperature of the turkey roulade is 155 F., ABOUT 1 1/2 hours. Remove from oven & allow to stand about 10 minutes. Slice & place on serving platter.
Apple Cider Gravy
In a medium saucepan, combine turkey stock, apple cider & sage leaves; bring to a boil. Gently boil, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes until sauce is reduced & thickened slightly. Remove sage leaves & discard. Drop in butter cubes; whisk to incorporate, add pepper & remove from heat. Serve hot over turkey roulade.
Cream puffs are unusual pastries. Flour is added to a boiled mixture of butter and water, then baked at a high temperature until the mixture becomes a smooth ball of dough with a hollow center. This fairly tasteless mixture is known as choux pastry. When served as a sweet dessert they are called cream puffs — when served with a brown gravy & roast beef, Yorkshire pudding.
Although a very basic shell, these puffs can be made into some pretty elegant desserts. One idea that I had originally developed for a company Christmas party, used Chambord (raspberry) liqueur.
Chambord, France’s Liqueur Royale is a magnificent liqueur created using all natural ingredients. The finest black and red raspberries are blended before being steeped in Cognac to achieve a highly concentrated base. The mixture is then extracted and a second infusion captures the remaining flavors from the berries. The final step marries the berry infusion with Cognac and extracts of Madagascan vanilla, Moroccan citrus peel, honey and hints of fragrant herbs. The result is an unprecedented level of all natural complexities, flavor and aroma.
To fill the puffs, I made a simple pastry cream using instant vanilla pudding mix, spices, whipped cream and some rum flavor to give it an eggnog taste. Once the puffs were filled and placed on a serving dish, I drizzled them with the sauce. Any remaining sauce was served in a dish in the center of the cream puff ‘wreath’. It definitely brought the spirit of Christmas to the dessert buffet table!
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a saucepan, heat water & butter to a rolling boil. Whisk in flour & salt. Stir vigorously over low heat until mixture forms a ball, about 1 minute; remove from heat. Beat in eggs, all at once; continue beating until smooth.
Drop dough by scant 1/4 cupfuls about 3 inches apart onto an ungreased or parchment lined baking sheet. Combine 2 Tbsp milk & egg yolk; brush over tops. Bake until puffed & golden. about 35-40 minutes. Cool away from drafts. Cut off tops; pull out any filaments of soft dough.
Eggnog Fluff Filling
In a large bowl, combine DRY pudding mix, milk, rum extract, nutmeg & ginger. With a mixer blend on low speed; Add whip cream, beating on high speed until soft peaks form, about 1-2 minutes.
Raspberry Chambord Sauce
In a food processor, puree raspberries with water until smooth. Strain into a small saucepan, pressing puree through a mesh. Whisk sugar, cornstarch & liqueur into sauce. Cook all ingredients together over medium high heat until thickened & clear. Remove from heat & add remaining sugar IF DESIRED. Transfer to a non-metalic container, cover & chill until ready to use.
Fill puffs; arrange on serving platter & drizzle with fresh raspberry Chambord sauce. Place remaining sauce in center of cream puff wreath. Serve immediately or cover & refrigerate no longer than 3 hours.
One of my all time favorite pasta dishes to make are jumbo stuffed pasta shells. They are easy to prepare and are perfectly portioned for individuals and groups alike.The best part is the multitude of different fillings you can make them with.
Some years ago, Brion and I had the pleasure of eating lunch at Gayles Bakery & Rosticceria in the little seaside town of Capitola, California (see my blog article from July 2016 for Fig & Gorgonzola Chicken Breast). It was there I tasted Spinach-Gorgonzola Pasta. Until then I had never even tasted this kind of cheese. With a strong dislike for Blue Cheese, it looked suspiciously similar. Long story short, it seemed everyone was ordering this pasta so I decided to try it. It was just incredible! The combination of Gorgonzola, ricotta and parmesan make this dish especially decadent and delicious.
Info I found on Gorgonzola Dolce reads like this — Imported from Italy, this sweet or ‘dolce’ Gorgonzola has the characteristically creamy texture and nutty aroma Gorgonzola is known for, yet is milder due to a shorter aging period. A great option for those who normally shy away from blue cheese.
The fact that Brion and I are both seafood lovers, I decided to incorporate this kind of pasta with a little seafood medley. The end result did not disappoint, bringing back that ‘taste of a memory’ once again.
In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, heat milk until hot but not boiling. Meanwhile, combine flour & butter in another heavy saucepan. Stir over medium heat with a wooden spoon or whisk until the mixture has gently bubbled for 2 minutes, being careful not to brown flour.
Begin to add the hot milk to the flour mixture a little at a time while whisking vigorously. Continue to add the milk until it is fully incorporated. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce heat to low; simmer, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 6-8 minutes. It should resemble heavy cream. Crumble the cheese & add to hot bechamel sauce, whisking continuously until smooth. Add nutmeg & pepper & stir. Remove from heat to cool.
Pasta & Filling
Cook the pasta shells in salted boiling water to which a small amount of oil has been added for 8-10 minutes. Drain & set aside.
In a large skillet, melt butter. Saute spinach & mushrooms until spinach is wilted. Remove to paper towels. Add shrimp & scallops to skillet; saute for 3-4 minutes until opaque & just barley cooked; set aside. Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a large bowl, combine spinach, shrimp, scallops, crab meat, ricotta cheese, garlic & salt & pepper. Fill pasta shells. Spread some sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Lay filled shells single file in pan. Pour remaining sauce over all & top with a sprinkling of parmesan. Bake 20-30 minutes, until the cheese becomes a little brown.
Sour cream is often thought of as topping for potatoes or an addition to sauces. Due to its creamy texture, sour cream can be added to a variety of baked goods and recipes in order to yield moister results. The use of sour cream has been associated with the cooking traditions of Eastern Europe, Germany, Ukraine and Russia since the first half of the 20th century. Originally made by allowing cream to sour naturally, today’s commercial version can contain the addition of lactic acid, gelatin or guar gum.
Probably one of the first recipes I ever used sour cream in was coffeecake. I just couldn’t believe how tender and moist it was and the heavenly smell when it came out of the oven. Looking through my mother’s recipe files, I see there were many recipes that contained sour cream that she had used.
I saw this recipe on a site called love2cooksweets.ca It was posted back in 2010. Nothing fancy but makes a wonderful sour cream oatmeal cookie. These can be filed under ‘comfort food’ I’m sure.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda & salt. In a medium bowl, cream butter with sugars; beat in egg & vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with sour cream. Stir in raisins & oats.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Scoop dough onto cookie sheet a few inches apart. Bake 12-15 minutes. Allow to cool on pan about 30 seconds then remove to wire racks.