Chicken Cheese Burgers w/ Portobello Fries

CELEBRATING CANADA DAY!

In Canada, July 1st marks the day for Canadians to show pride in their nations history, culture and achievements. From coast to coast the country’s birthday is marked with various events.

This is the date of the historical event in which Canada gained its independence from Great Britain in 1867.

Barbecues are definitely the preferred choice of food event for the day. Although we are experiencing some rainy conditions this Canada Day, nothing says you can’t modify the traditional barbecue with cooking indoors. For something different, I decided to try making some portobello ‘fries’ to accompany our chicken cheese burgers. Technically, they are not really fries at all, but they’re crispy and dip able and that is all anyone expects from a fry.. right? Sliced and breaded with crumbs and cheese then baked makes these portobello fries super tasty.

Of course, the staple at most barbecues, tailgates and picnics is the classic burger. But a burger doesn’t have to be just a burger and cheese isn’t just cheese. For ours, I’m making chicken burgers ‘infused’ with shredded Gruyere cheese. Then taking it to the next level and adding caramelized onions and guacamole.

What a nice ‘Canada Day’ meal it makes!

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Chicken Cheese Burgers w/ Portobello Fries
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Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Course Lunch, Main Dish
Cuisine American
Servings
Votes: 1
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Instructions
Chicken Cheese Burgers
  1. In a large bowl, combine chicken, Gruyere, bread crumbs, parsley, egg & garlic. Season with salt & pepper. Form into 4 patties & place in refrigerator until ready to grill.
Caramelized Onions
  1. Heat oil in skillet until hot. Add onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture is evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Stir in brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown in color. Place in a dish; set aside.
Guacamole
  1. In a bowl, coarsely mash avocados with lime juice & salt. Stir in garlic, onion & cilantro; blend well. Cover with plastic wrap & place in fridge until needed.
Portobello Fries
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Place a wire rack on a large baking sheet lined with foil.
  2. In a shallow dish, whisk together the flour, spices, salt & pepper. In another shallow dish, lightly beat eggs with 1 Tbsp water. In the third shallow dish, combine panko/butter mixture with the Parmesan cheese.
  3. Gently toss mushroom slices in the flour mixture. Coat evenly & shake off any excess flour. Then, dip the floured fries into the eggs, drip off any excess eggs & then place them into the panko mixture. Gently press the panko mixture onto the mushrooms.
  4. Place the fries onto the wire rack, leaving an 1/8-inch space between each. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown & crispy. If you wish, you could serve fries with marinara sauce, ketchup or a roasted garlic mayo.
Assembly
  1. Once you have all the various components to this meal this far all that is left is to barbecue the chicken burgers over a medium heat for about 5-6 minutes per side or until cooked thru. Instead of baking the mushroom fries you can alternately grill them on the BBQ as well.
  2. Slice & lightly grill Ciabatta buns. Top each bottom half with a chicken burger, a slice of cheese, some guacamole, caramelized onions & a tomato slice, ending with the other half of the bun. The big question is, how to get your mouth around it!
Recipe Notes
  • Whether you bake or grill, either way its all good!

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin w/ Sweet Potato, Caramelized Onions & Bacon

CELEBRATING FATHER’S DAY!

Father’s Day is celebrated on many different dates around the world. It gives us the opportunity to thank or reflect on, that special person we call ‘Dad’.

The imprint of a father remains forever on the lives of his children. For daughters, he is the standard against which she will judge all men. To a son, he is his first hero.

Father’s are some of the most unsung, unpraised and unnoticed valuable assets of our society. Growing up, I recall that wonderful feeling of being very protected by our father.

Both of our dad’s are no longer with us but we will always hold dear fond memories of them. It seems a father’s love and influence is never fully appreciated until they are no longer with you.

Today, I’m making a stuffed tenderloin meal which I think they both would have enjoyed.

Pork tenderloin is definitely one of my ‘go to’ sources of protein. It is a very lean cut with virtually no fat at all and can be flavored and cooked in a variety of ways.

Pork can be as easy or involved as you choose to make it. Since sweet potatoes make the perfect compliment to pork, combining them with caramelized onion and bacon tastes amazing.

Slicing into this tenderloin reveals the wonderful colors of the stuffing, making it a feast for both eyes and taste buds.

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Stuffed Pork Tenderloin w/ Sweet Potato, Caramelized Onions & Bacon
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Instructions
  1. In a skillet, fry bacon until cooked but not crisp. Remove bacon from skillet; blot on paper towel.
  2. Dice onion in about a 1/4-inch size. Add to bacon drippings in skillet & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture has evaporated & onion is soft.
  3. Reduce heat; sprinkle with apple cider vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Add brown sugar; cook & stir until golden. Cook sweet potato, peel & mash.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  5. Remove any 'silver-skin' from pork tenderloin. Butterfly tenderloin & pound carefully to make it an even thickness. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Spread cut side evenly with mashed sweet potato & top with caramelized onion & crumbled bacon .
  6. Starting on the short end, roll tenderloin & place seam side down on a lightly greased piece of foil. Place on a baking sheet & cup foil corners to resemble a dish. Brush tenderloin with Fig Balsamic Olive Oil Vinaigrette (or just use oil).
  7. Roast about 45 minutes or until meat thermometer reaches 160 F. If you prefer you can roast the tenderloin 8-10 minutes more.

Avocado Dinner Buns w/ Major Grey’s Mango Chutney

Although, avocados are most traditionally used as a main ingredient in guacamole or to top a salad or sandwich, used in baking they are amazing.

When adding them into yeast bread recipes, you can replace all the butter with equal amounts of room temperature, mashed, ripe avocado. The ripeness of the avocado is very important as it needs to be very soft for it to work perfectly.

In addition to their creamy texture and mild flavor, avocados have a high water content so they can help to make baking softer, chewier and less likely to crumble.

You can freeze mashed, fresh, ripe avocados if you want to have an ’emergency supply’ on hand. To freeze, mash the avocados with a fork or blender. Add some lime juice and mix well. For every avocado use about 1 tablespoon of lime juice to prevent them from browning. Fill a freezer weight zip-lock bag with this puree. Remove the air from the bag, then zip closed and freeze. Best to use frozen avocados within 4-5 months of freezing.

I thought some Major Grey’s mango chutney would be a perfect compliment to these avocado rolls. Major Grey’s chutney is a style of chutney not a brand. The ingredients in Major Grey’s chutney vary both across commercial brands and recipes, but a few elements seem to remain constant like mangoes, raisins, citrus, onions, a sugar of some sort, and warm spices. The chutney is sweet and tangy with a nice ‘kick’ of heat at the end that’s enough to compliment the different layers of flavor without consuming them. You will often see it served with curried dishes or as a compliment to meats and cheeses.

Major Grey’s chutney is considered by many the gold standard of all chutneys. Complete with its own legend of a 19th Century British Army officer who presumably lived in British India and created this unique condiment.

The great part about making your own chutney is that you can tailor the ‘sweet & heat’ balance to your own preferences. Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with just picking up a jar at the supermarket!!

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Avocado Dinner Buns w/ Major Grey's Mango Chutney
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ROLLS
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ROLLS
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Instructions
Avocado Rolls
  1. In a small bowl, place yeast, lukewarm milk & 1 tsp sugar. Stir; cover & set aside until frothy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together remaining 1/4 cup sugar, mashed avocado, eggs. Add yeast mixture & stir to combine.
  3. In another bowl, whisk flour & salt. Add flour mixture to yeast mixture gradually, combining after each addition. Once all flour has been added, knead on a lightly floured surface for about 2 minutes.
  4. Lightly grease the large bowl, place dough in it & cover with plastic wrap & a tea towel. Allow to rest for at least an hour in a draft-free place until dough has doubled in volume.
  5. Punch dough down. Divide into 18 equal pieces in shape into balls. Place into a greased baking dish & cover with plastic wrap/towel. Allow to rise until doubled in volume, about an hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake rolls about 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven; cool for just a few minutes then brush with the Tbsp of butter. Serve with Mango Chutney.
Mango Chutney
  1. In a saucepan, combine all chutney ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook, stirring, until reduced & thick. Refrigerate any not used on rolls.

Pearl Couscous w/ Wild Mushrooms & Herbs

If you follow my blog, you’ve probably noticed pearl couscous has become one of my favorites. There was a time when rice and pasta reigned supreme as a side dish staple in North America. But we have become more adventurous, probably due to world travel and the internet. Foods like couscous have come onto the food scene and never left.

If you have not tried it, pearl or Israeli couscous has a chewy texture with a warm, nutty flavor. Made from wheat flour and semolina, it has a ball-like shape and is toasted, rather than dried, after the granules are formed. Unlike common types of pasta or couscous, pearl couscous was factory made from the outset and therefore is rarely seen homemade from scratch.

Whether you like it hot or cold, savory or even a little sweet, the options are endless with this versatile ‘ancient’ food.

I find it pairs so well with the wild mushrooms & herbs. I wanted to make this dish as our main course so I added some bacon which really added to the flavor.

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Pearl Couscous w/ Wild Mushrooms & Herbs
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Instructions
  1. In a medium saucepan, fry chopped bacon until crisp, about 3 minutes; remove from pan & blot on paper towel. Add mushrooms, onion & garlic; saute until softened.
  2. To the mushroom mixture add broth, (salt if using water) & bring to a boil. Add couscous; stir to combine. Cover saucepan & remove from heat; set aside until liquid has been absorbed, about 10 minutes. Add herbs & bacon crumbles. Gently stir together with a fork. Serve immediately.

Sweet Potato & Clementine Loaf Cake

Vegetables may seem like unusual ingredients to use in baked goods, but this style of cooking is actually the perfect combination of savory comfort and earthy, wholesome flavor.

I know this isn’t a new concept. We have all eaten our fair share of zucchini bread and carrot cake but if you haven’t tried using sweet potato in baking, you should.

The naturally sweet, super-creamy ingredient can go way beyond the classic Thanksgiving casserole dish. Sweet or savory, sweet potatoes are versatile magic-makers. Not only will they add a pop of color but they can reduce the need for some of the expected flour, eggs and/or sugar as well as help in retaining moisture to keep baking from drying out.

In this loaf cake, I paired the sweet potato with some clementine orange, resulting in a real nice flavor!

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Sweet Potato & Clementine Loaf Cake
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Ingredients
Candied Clementines
Cake
Servings
Ingredients
Candied Clementines
Cake
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Instructions
Candied Clementine
  1. Thinly slice clementine orange into 1/4-inch rounds. Remove any seeds. Boil sugar & water in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, then carefully add slices. Simmer until slices look slightly translucent, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat; lay candied slices on a wire rack & reserve syrup for cake batter.
Cake
  1. Prick unpeeled small sweet potato several times with a fork. Microwave on high until tender, turning halfway through, 5-8 minutes. Allow to cool about 20 minutes. Cut in half & scoop into a small bowl. Mash until smooth. Reserve 1/3 cup for cake. The rest can be used for something else or eaten as is.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line or spray a 9 X 5-inch loaf pan.
  3. Rub 1/2 cup sugar & orange zest in a medium bowl with your hands to release natural oils. Whisk in flour, baking powder & salt.
  4. In large bowl, whisk eggs, oil, 1/3 cup mashed sweet potato, orange juice & reserved candied clementine syrup. Stir in flour mixture until just combined. Scrape into prepared loaf pan & smooth top.
  5. Bake 35-40 minutes or until tests done. Cover loosely with foil if browning too quickly. Allow loaf to cool for 10 minutes in pan; remove to a rack to cool completely.
Glaze
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, marmalade & lemon juice. Brush loaf with glaze, then decorate with candied clementine slices.
Recipe Notes
  • Clementine rind is a little to bitter for our liking so I just removed it after it was candied & used the flesh.

Seafood Stuffed Whole Salmon

Something about summer makes us want to add more fish, preferably WILD CAUGHT, to our meals. Whole fish is usually less expensive than fillets and the presentation looks amazing.

Its common knowledge that fish is one of the easiest and fastest meals you can prepare. Their muscle fibers are much shorter than they are in beef, so fish cooks quickly and there is no tenderizing to do. In fact, the biggest challenge in preparing fish is to keep it from falling apart after cooking it.

To prevent it from drying out, fish require higher temperatures and shorter cooking times than meat. The transition from ‘almost done to perfectly cooked’, happens in minutes. Remember that residual heat means the fish continues to cook for a few minutes even after it is removed from the heat, so if it seems tough when you bite into it is probably overcooked. As it moves from ‘done to overdone’, the flesh continues to firm then shrinks, pushing out moisture, which evaporates and leaves the fish dry and chewy. It seems that cooking fish rests on science as well as the art of restraint.

This seafood stuffing is a great compliment to the rich flavor of the salmon as well as keeping it moist. If this seems like a lot of fish, it really isn’t when you think all all the other meals you can create with the leftovers.

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Seafood Stuffed Whole Salmon
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Instructions
  1. Clean & chop raw shrimp & scallops, cook rice & slice green onions. In a large bowl, combine rice, shrimp/scallop combo, cream cheese, butter, garlic, basil, marjoram, oregano, thyme, rosemary & celery seed.
  2. Lay salmon on a double thickness of greased foil. Fill salmon with stuffing mixture; secure with toothpicks. Brush with olive oil & sprinkle with dill weed & salt.
  3. At this point you can either bake the salmon at 425 F. in the oven or place it with the foil, over a medium heat on a closed grill. Allow 10 minutes per 1-inch (2.5 cm) thickness measured after stuffing at thickest part. Fish should flake easily with a fork at the thickest part when done.

Bacon Wrapped, Cauliflower Stuffed Meatballs

It seems the cauliflower craze has managed to last longer than just about any other that’s come before it. A total superstar when it comes to all the popular diets currently on everyone’s radar, including keto, paleo & whole 30. All signs point to cauliflower becoming the longest lasting food trend of all time.

Cauliflower ….. a naturally gluten-free food that just requires heavy seasoning, is healthy, versatile and ‘tasteless’. Its an entirely blank canvas for all your cooking needs because you can make it taste like ‘anything’ you want.

Last summer, Brion & I stopped for lunch at a popular take-out restaurant. He decided to try their much advertised ‘plant-based burger’. He was not impressed. Let’s say … it was not as advertised!!

In a previous blog, a while back, I had made cauliflower pizza crust and we had really enjoyed it. So today I am making meatballs stuffed with cauliflower in a cauliflower cheese sauce. I guess, this is my version of a ‘plant-based meatball’. Hopefully that works out better.

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Bacon Wrapped, Cauliflower Stuffed Meatballs
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Instructions
Meatballs
  1. In a large pot, cook head of cauliflower in salted boiling water for about 5 minutes. Remove the stem & cut off florets. Set STEM aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, with eggs, onion, garlic, mustard & spices. Mix well. Divide meat mixture into 7 equal amounts & flatten each piece in your hand (one at a time). Place a cauliflower floret in the middle of each, then seal the meat around it forming a meatball.
  3. Wrap a slice of bacon around each cauliflower meatball. In a saucepan, heat a small amount of oil over medium heat & cook the meatballs on all sides.
Cheese Sauce
  1. Chop the reserved cauliflower stem. Shred cheese & place in a food processor with milk, seasonings & chopped cauliflower stem. Puree mixture until smooth.
  2. Pour the cauliflower cheese sauce over the meatballs in the pan & allow to simmer about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted & smooth. Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.

Blueberry Babka Rolls

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Today as we celebrate Mother’s Day, many special memories come to mind. My mother passed away in 1978 but even after 42 years, time has changed nothing. I still miss the sound of her voice, the wisdom in her advice, the stories of her life and just being in her presence. I miss her today as much as the day she left us and I always will.

It is also with very loving thoughts, I celebrate my mother-in-law, Dolores, for her loving and kind ways and for raising that ‘special’ man I love sharing my life with. Love to my sisters, who gave so much of themselves to be the great mom’s they are.

Babka ….. an old world beauty with roots in both the Jewish and Eastern European communities. A cake like, sweet yeast bread, richer than that of a cinnamon bun but not as rich as a Danish pastry. The name Babka means ‘little grandmother’ in many European languages.

Traditionally, babka was filled with seeds, nuts and sometimes even honey or filled with layers of cinnamon sugar or chocolate. This classic baked good has been making its way into every corner of the food world. A great babka dough is a blank canvas for almost any filling. Many other flavors have been developed and have become equally popular.

Fruit lovers can now indulge in apple-cinnamon or raspberry and apricot cream cheese babkas. There is also a Middle Eastern favorite using halva (sesame candy) or a completely savory version with sun-dried tomatoes.

This bread seems very fitting on our Mother’s Day blog.

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Blueberry Babka Rolls
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Ingredients
Babka Dough
Blueberry Filling
Streusel Topping
Servings
ROLLS
Ingredients
Babka Dough
Blueberry Filling
Streusel Topping
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Instructions
Babka Dough
  1. In a small bowl, place water & sprinkle with the yeast & a pinch of sugar; stir to combine. Allow to stand until frothy, about 5-10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together 4 cups of the flour, sugar & salt. Make a well in the center of the flour & add eggs, yolk & oil. Whisk to form a slurry, pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry. Mix the yeast, eggs & flour with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough that is difficult to mix forms. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface & knead for about 10 minutes. If the dough seems very sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky. The dough has finished kneading when it is soft, smooth & holds a ball-shape.
  4. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap & place in a draft-free area. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
Blueberry Filling
  1. In a small saucepan, combine cornstarch, sugars & salt. Add water & blueberries; cook until clear & bubbling. Remove from heat & add lemon juice; cool completely.
Streusel Topping
  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, powdered sugar, salt & baking powdered. Cut butter into small chunks & add the flour mixture. Using your fingertips, work the butter into the flour mixture until it forms LARGE, coarse crumbs. Place in refrigerator until ready to use.
Assembly
  1. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough into a rectangle, roughly 40 X 60 cm (15" X 24"). Spread half of the filling on center third of the dough. Fold one of the sides over the center & spread the remaining filling on top. Next, put opposite side of the dough over all & gently press together.
  2. Using a sharp knife or a pizza cutter, cut 15 strips, between 2 - 2.5 cm (3/4"-1") thick. Twist each strand of dough a few times then, holding one end between you thumb & forefinger, coil the dough to form a circle. Finish by pinching the outer end to the ring, so it holds the circular shape when baking. Repeat with remaining strips. Place rolls on lined baking sheet as you make them. Cover baking sheet with plastic wrap & set in a draft-free place until rolls have doubled in size.
Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Brush rolls with egg wash. Sprinkle streusel & chopped nuts evenly over the tops, pressing lightly so the crumbs adhere to the rolls. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven & place on a cooling rack.

Avocado Pancakes

Pancakes for me, are not just a breakfast food. I could eat them at any time of day … hot or cold. Originally, pancakes were made from wheat flour, olive oil, honey and curdled milk. At one point in time, they were often flavored with rose water, various spices, sherry and apples.

The name ‘pancake’ became a standard name in the 19th century. Before that, they were often referenced as johnny cakes, journey cakes, buckwheat cakes, hoe cakes, griddle cakes and flapjacks. Most early North American pancakes were made with buckwheat or cornmeal.

Pancakes exist all throughout the world, but each culture has their own unique way of preparing them whether its for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Avocado seems to be a trend that will ‘never’ die. This versatile fruit is found in guacamole, on toast, stuffed with fillings, etc., etc. Since I’m a lover of all things avocado, why not put them in pancakes?!

Finding a ripe avocado at the supermarket is hit and miss most of the time. Here’s a suggestion I hope you find helpful. Because ripe bananas or apples release a lot of ethylene, the hormone that triggers ripening in mature fruit, place one in a closed paper bag with your under ripe avocados and it will speed up the process.

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Avocado Pancakes
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small pancakes
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small pancakes
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Instructions
  1. In a blender, whisk avocado & milk until creamy. Slowly add the dry ingredients, blending & scraping sides down with a spatula until mixture is smooth. Add the whole eggs & blend just until combined.
  2. Heat a large skillet or pan on the stove to a medium-low heat. Melt butter & spread evenly across the pan (or spray with cooking spray).
  3. Pour or ladle batter onto the pan forming round cakes about 3-inches in diameter. Allow to cook about 3-4 minutes, flipping carefully & pressing down on each to get more surface area on the pancakes to cook. Cook opposite side for 3-4 more minutes, & flip one more time. Gently press pancakes down with back of the spatula. The avocado wants to remain in its creamy state, so the center of the pancakes may be just slightly doughy.
  4. Serve immediately with some crispy bacon & a soft fried egg.

Sweet Cherry Cream Cheese Cakes

There are literally hundreds of ways to make cheesecake with so many recipes and ideas available today. When pairing fruit and cheese, the goal should be to highlight both elements equally. We enjoy fruit with cheese because the combination of flavors are so complimentary.

One of the first cheesecake pairings I recall was the ‘Cherry-O Cream Cheese Pie’ from the Borden company. I doubt there are very many people in North America who didn’t enjoy this dessert in the 60’s or 70’s. The recipe was placed in a magazine ad and was printed to promote two of their products … cream cheese and sweetened milk.

Part of the reason it became such a favorite was it tasted great and was a no-bake cheesecake. All you needed was the ingredients, a mixer, a can opener and a refrigerator. Borden is still in existence today, selling sweetened condensed milk under the name Eagle Brand.

With a cheesecake idea in mind, I picked up some frozen sweet, dark cherries when we were shopping. As usual, I like doing individuals since there’s just the two of us. The base is like cake batter which is topped with the cream cheese filling and cherries. The streusel and sliced almonds are the crowning touch.

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Sweet Cherry Cream Cheese Cakes
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Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
mini tarts
Ingredients
Course dessert
Cuisine American
Servings
mini tarts
Ingredients
Votes: 1
Rating: 5
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Instructions
Filling
  1. In a small bowl, with an electric mixer, combine cream cheese & sugar until creamy. Add egg white & mix just to combine. Set aside.
Streusel
  1. In a small bowl, combine sugar, flour & chilled butter. With finger tips or a pastry blender, combine until pea-size crumbles form. Set aside.
Cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter 8- 4 X 3/4-inch mini tart pans.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together butter & sugar. Add egg, egg yolk & the 3 extracts. Fold in flour mixture alternating with the sour cream. DO NOT OVERMIX.
  3. Divide batter between the 8 mini tart pans. Spread batter over bottom & up the sides of pans. Spoon filling into center of cake batter 'shells'. Arrange cherry halves, cut side down, in a circle on top of filling. Sprinkle tarts with streusel topping then with sliced almonds.
  4. Place tart pans on a baking sheet & bake 25-30 minutes, or until they test done. Serve warm or cold.
Recipe Notes
  • The newspaper clipping looks to be from a full page promo for Borden's cream cheese & condensed milk. The coupon at the bottom expired May 31, 1965
  • Interesting ... there is part of an ad on the reverse side of the clipping for a new Scout vehicle priced at $1690.85 which looks similar to a Jeep. What a price!!