I haven’t thought of puffed wheat cake in years. It’s probably been 15 or 20 years since I’ve even made any. So what happened to puffed wheat? I remember this cereal from my childhood, being sold in HUGE plastic bags. It seems that puffed wheat cake (or squares) was a distinctly rural Canadian phenomenon. Nearly anyone from the prairie provinces recalls the recipe from memory. When I looked through my mothers recipe file, she had a recipe for ‘puffed wheat brittle’. This was the forerunner to puffed wheat ‘squares’. It was made using sugar, water, vinegar, molasses, butter & salt.
The Rice Krispie cereal came on the market in North America in 1928. Food history states that similar recipes existed for Puffed Rice & Puffed Wheat but neither used marshmallows, only molasses. Most inventions are built on what has come before and the ‘Rice Krispie Marshmallow Treats’ were no different.
Home economists, Mildred Day and her co-worker, Malitta Jensen, who worked for the Kellogg’s company in 1939 are credited with inventing ‘Rice Krispie Treats’. Originally they had been developed as a snack for an organization called Campfire Girls. They were having a fundraiser and needed something unique that the girls could sell door to door.
In 1940, the original recipe for Kellogg’s Rice Krispie Treats first appeared on the cereal box and continues to do so to this day. In 1995, the company began selling the pre-packaged ones. The fact that they are so quick and easy to make attributes to their continued popularity and of course there are no end to variations you can make from the original recipe.
Here are a couple of ideas you might enjoy to try.
In a large buttered bowl, measure out puffed wheat; set aside. In a saucepan, combine margarine, brown sugar, corn syrup & spices; bring to a boil. Remove from heat & add vanilla. Pour mixture over puffed wheat & stir quickly until completely coated. Pour immediately into prepared buttered pan (size will depend on how thick you like your squares to be) & press down firmly to flatten. When cool, cut into preferred size pieces.
Rice Krispie Treats
Lightly butter a 9 x 13" pan. In a large bowl, measure rice krispies, flax flakes, cranberries, pumpkin seeds & flax seed. In a large saucepan, slowly melt margarine with marshmallows. Remove from heat, add vanilla. Add mixture from bowl & stir quickly to combine well. Pour into buttered pan & press down firmly. When cool, cut into preferred size pieces.
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.
Creativity and imagination is part of the fun of baking from scratch. The pairing of flavors been going on ever since people put food to mouth, but the science of it has now become big business.
As a rule of thumb, desserts usually have one or two predominate flavors, but some may have small amounts of additional flavor elements to help support the main flavor combination.
I have always loved the sweet, nutty flavor of hazelnuts especially in baking. The other day I was thinking about a square my mother used to make at Christmas. It had a very simple ‘shortbread’ base that was neither too sweet or buttery. My next thought was to pair hazelnuts, dried cranberries and glazed citrus peel to form the top layer. To add a little pizzazz, I baked them individually in different shaped tartlet pans.
I was real curious to see what Brion would think of these little ‘bites’. After tasting one, he felt they had good flavor but were a little dry. My solution to this was to make an orange coulis sauce to serve with them.
There’s something about the citrus notes of orange with the tarty sweetness of cranberries that makes for an aromatic amorous marriage of flavors. The end result produced a great tasting Christmas dessert!
Hazelnut & Dried Cranberry Bites with Orange Coulis
In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt & orange zest. Add butter, mix until well combined. Divide shortcrust among 24 tartlet pans. Evenly press pastry on bottom & up the sides of each. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat eggs with sugar, flour, extract, corn syrup & melted butter. Fold in chopped hazelnuts, cranberries & citrus peel.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Place tartlet pan on a foil lined baking sheet. Carefully fill tartlet pans (should be enough for 24). Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove from oven & cool on a wire rack.
Peel orange in a circular fashion, being careful not to go to thick & getting the pith. Cut in slivers. Juice the orange, straining into a small saucepan. Heat water, orange juice & sugar, bring to a boil. Add slivers of orange peel; simmer about 15 minutes until peel is cooked.
When ready to serve, make a design with some coulis on dessert plates, place tartlets on top. Decorate with a bit candied orange rind!
If you don't care for the orange coulis, try serving these little bites with a bit of Grand Marnier flavored whipped cream OR some white "Old English" cheddar.
When I think about Autumn here in Canada, it could be likened to a vanGogh painting. The landscape transforms into a beautiful tapestry of red, gold and yellow. As the days grow shorter and the mornings darker, your tastes turn from salads and cool drinks to your favorite comfort foods. Smells that bring you back to your childhood……. evoking so much from one moment in time is the sheer essence of Autumn.
The truth being is that fall just gives us a different perspective. The word Thanksgiving itself makes one pause and ask, what am I thankful for this year? We start to reflect on the year we have had with it’s inevitable highs and lows.
Fall also represents a time of change. As nature bursts with it’s fabulous fall foliage, it gives us a little bit of extra time to make the most of what we have left in this year before the grand finale.
For the last 60 years, Canada has celebrated Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October. It’s one of those holidays that tend to bring families together, both physically and emotionally. Unfortunately though, in this highly technological age, it seems as if we have become more connected digitally than emotionally. Thinking about the food aspect of this holiday, sweet potatoes have become synonymous with Thanksgiving (and Fall).
Native to Central and South America, sweet potatoes are some of the oldest vegetables on the planet. Distantly related to commonplace, starchy Russets and Yukon Golds. Western markets have tagged some sweet potatoes with the deceptive name ‘yams’ to differentiate the southern from the northern crops. True yams are rough-skinned tubers, related to lilies.
Enter the ‘Candied Yam Casserole’. It seems to be the most divisive of the side dishes served, a real ‘love-it-or-hate-it’ kind of thing. Definitely not a venerated Thanksgiving tradition but more of a marketing promotion that caught on. It was 1917 when the first instance of sweet potatoes baked with a coat of marshmallows appeared in a recipe booklet commissioned by Angelus Marshmallow Company. The recipes in the booklet showed you how to incorporate marshmallows into everyday dishes so that their product wouldn’t fail and ‘viola’, the classic and capitalistic pairing was born.
I do remember my mother making this casserole for our special Thanksgiving dinner. Of course, being a kid that loved sweets, it tasted real good. At this point in time, I would rather just have them with salt and pepper for most part.
My blog recipe is one I came across in a Pillsbury booklet from 2010 ( pillsbury.com ). We have enjoyed it several times as it fits in perfect with a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with foil; spray with cooking spray. Pierce sweet potatoes with a fork & rub with oil. Place on baking sheet & bake 45-55 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork.
In a large skillet over medium heat, fry bacon until crisp; remove & drain on paper towel. In bacon drippings, cook onion & celery about 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened. Add broth & 2 Tbsp butter; heat to boiling. Stir in stuffing mix, cranberries & 2 Tbsp of the walnuts. Remove from heat, cover & set aside.
Remove sweet potatoes from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 375 F. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Scoop out potato flesh, leaving a 1/3-inch thick wall on inside of shell; set aside. Place potato flesh in a large bowl. Add 2 Tbsp syrup, remaining 2 Tbsp butter & the nutmeg; mash. Spoon about 1/2 cup of stuffing mixture into each potato shell; spoon mashed sweet potato mixture over stuffing, leaving some stuffing exposed around side of shell.
Line a baking sheet with foil again & spray with cooking spray. Place potato boats on sheet. Bake 15 minutes or until hot. Sprinkle potatoes with crumbled bacon bits & remaining 2 Tbsp walnuts; drizzle with additional syrup.
Today, November 24, our neighbors to the south are celebrating Thanksgiving. Over the years, Brion and I have been in the USA numerous times on this occasion and enjoyed the food and holiday atmosphere very much. Today’s blog post acknowledges the American holiday with some special meal choices.
At the heart of a memorable dinner is the main entree, so why not make it just a bit more special by serving it ‘En Croute’. In the culinary arts, the term en croute(pronounced ‘on Kroot’) indicates a food that has been wrapped in a pastry dough and then baked in the oven. Traditionally the type of pastry used was a simple dough called pate pastry. Today, puff pastry is frequently used for most en croute recipes.
The key to preparing items en croute is that however long it takes to cook the pastry until it is golden brown is how long the item will spend in the oven. Some of the best choices are beef tenderloin, salmon or a brie cheese, due to the fact they require less time to cook.
In the 1950’s and 60’s, Beef Wellington or as the French called it, ‘Boeuf en Croute’, became very popular. It was an elegant meal, using a beef tenderloin covered with liver pate and wrapped in pastry. My first introduction to this meal was a much more low key version. It was simply achieved by making a nicely seasoned meatloaf, wrapping it a basic pastry and baking it. My mother would serve it with a tomato soup sauce. Definitely good but not quite the elegance of the true en croute entrees.
Two favorites of mine are variations of the classic ‘boeuf en croute’. One uses boneless turkey breast topped with a cranberry, hazelnut stuffing and baked in a tender puff pastry then served with a citrus-fig cranberry sauce. The other one is a seafood en croute using fresh salmon. The salmon is topped with shrimp or scallops in a seasoned egg/cream mixture and baked in puff pastry. A dill cream sauce is served to compliment this entree. Having a few alternatives to change out your traditional holiday meals always keeps it interesting.
Saute garlic & onions in olive oil & butter 1-2 minutes. Add bread crumbs; toss until they begin to brown slightly. Add hazelnuts, thyme, cranberries, salt & pepper. Add only enough turkey stock to make stuffing hold together.
Place the first pastry sheet on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place turkey breast along the center line of the pastry sheet. Brush the edges of the pastry with egg wash. Place stuffing on top of the turkey. Place the second pastry sheet over the turkey & stuffing. Trim the edges to form an oval shape. Save the trimmings in the fridge.
Bring the edges of the dough together & seal by pinching them. Roll the dough from the bottom layer over the top layer & press down all the way around the perimeter of the pastry. This creates a tighter seal. Brush egg wash over the entire surface of the pastry. Decorate, cutting leaf shapes from trimmed pastry & score leaf veining into them with the tip of a sharp knife. Cut four 1/2" slots in the top of the pastry to let steam escape. Chill for 20 minutes or longer in the fridge before baking. This helps the pastry to puff.
Bake at 400 F. for about 15-20 minutes then reduce the heat to 350 F. Use a meat thermometer to make sure that the center has reached at least 170 F. to be sure the turkey is completely cooked, about 35-45 minutes longer. Let rest for 10 minutes before cutting into servings.
Citrus - Fig Cranberry Sauce
Simmer all ingredients together slowly for 30-40 minutes or until the cranberries are fully cooked & the mixture reduces & thickens to a jam-like consistency. Stir the sauce often as it simmers. Remove the star anise (if using). Store in a plastic container in refrigerator until serving time.
Seafood en Croute
On a lightly floured surface, roll each pastry sheet into a 12 x 10-inch rectangle. Cut each sheet into four 6 x 5-inch rectangles. Place a salmon fillet in center of four rectangles.
In a small bowl, combine the shrimp (or scallops), cream, onions, parsley, dill, garlic, pesto, salt & pepper. In another small bowl, beat egg white on medium speed until soft peaks form; fold into shrimp mixture. Spoon about 1/4 cup over each fillet.
Top each with a pastry rectangle & crimp to seal. With a sharp knife, cut several slits in the top to let steam escape. Place on a 15 x 10 x 1-inch parchment lined baking sheet; brush with egg wash. Bake at 400 F. for 20-25 minutes or until a thermometer reads 160 F.
Dill Cream Sauce
Mix all ingredients & refrigerate until serving time.
The original recipe source for the Cranberry Hazelnut Turkey & Citrus Fig Cranberry Sauce can be found at rockrecipes.com
The cranberry sauce uses star anise or extract but feel free to omit it if you do not care for that flavor.
The Seafood en Croute recipe is one that is featured on tasteofhome.com which has always been my favorite 'go-to' recipe company forever.
As I mentioned before, pork tenderloin regularly pops up in my supper menus. Over time, I have prepared it in many different ways and hardly ever remember any that we didn’t care for.
Since my three rhubarb plants seem to still be producing those lovely stalks, why not use them! This blog recipe is easy, wonderful tasting and a great presentation all in one. Here’s my interpretation of Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Rhubarb Chutney. Enjoy!
In a large resealable plastic bag, combine spice rub ingredients. Butterfly pork tenderloin & flatten to uniform thickness. Place in plastic bag with spice rub & shake to distribute seasoning well. Close bag & allow to stand in refrigerator for several hours.
In a heavy saucepan, combine first 9 chutney ingredients. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add rhubarb, onion & dried cranberries; increase heat to medium & cook until rhubarb is tender & mixture thickens slightly, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Can be made ahead of time & refrigerated until needed.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a piece of aluminum foil & place on a wire rack on a baking pan. Cut plastic bag open; lay tenderloin flat with cut side up. Spread chutney over tenderloin & carefully roll (using plastic bag), starting with the long side as you would with a cake 'jelly roll'. Place on greased foil on pan.
Lightly rub a small amount of olive oil or a 'fig balsamic dressing' over top of tenderloin. Bake for about 45 minutes or until tests done. DO NOT OVER BAKE! Remove from oven & allow stand for a few minutes before slicing.
No barbecue is complete without adding a few salads. More than just greens topped with a dressing, there are many versions of coleslaw and pasta salads as well as vegetable and gelatin salads. Without a doubt, you can make them as simple or fancy as you like or have the time for.
Every family seems to develop its own salad favorites. For our family, it was my mother’s ‘German’ version of potato salad. This was not the ‘Hot German Potato Salad’ whichyou most often see in recipe books. Her’s was a very basic potato salad, not a lot of ingredients, but the dressing was what made it special to us. Like so many German recipes it had that sweet-sour taste.
Over the years, either in the commercial food industry or at company barbecues, etc. I have used and shared her recipe many times. It has never failed to draw great reviews but strangely enough I think my husband is the only person I’ve known who didn’t care for potato salad in any fashion.
There are endless ideas for barbecue salads. In today’s blog I thought it would be nice to post a medley of five different kinds. I think you will find they are reasonably quick and easy to prepare as well as good accompaniments to most any meat being barbecued.
Cook potatoes in salted water. Cool, peel & cube. Combine potatoes, eggs, & onion. Blend together dressing ingredients & pour over potato mixture; mix well. Cover & refrigerate for several hours. Just before serving time, add sliced radishes & more salt if necessary. Mix well.
Chick Pea Pasta Salad
Cook pasta according to pkg. directions. Drain & rinse under cold running water until cold. Combine pasta with next 8 ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour dressing over salad; toss to coat evenly. Cover & refrigerate for several hours. Arrange greens on serving plate & top with chick pea mixture or mix greens into salad, your choice.
Candied Nut & Gorgonzola Salad
In a skillet over medium heat, melt sugar stirring constantly. Add nuts, stir until nuts are coated. Remove nuts from skillet; spreading them out on a sheet of aluminium foil to cool. In a large bowl, combine greens, dried fruit & Gorgonzola cheese; refrigerate. At serving time, combine salad with dressing, toss gently; add candied nuts & toss again.
Barley, Corn & Pepper Salad
Cook barley to desired tenderness. Drain; rinse with cold water. In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients; toss well. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine all dressing ingredients; shake well. Pour dressing over salad; toss to combine. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Fresh Spinach & Vegetable Salad
Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. At serving time, drizzle with dressing choice & top with toasted seeds.
If you like raw cauliflower, try adding a cup of it sliced along with some crisp, crumbled bacon bits to your potato salad. It adds a whole new dimension to an old favorite.