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.
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.
Pizza al taglio (Italian for pizza ‘by the cut’) is a variety of pizza baked in large rectangular trays and generally sold by weight with prices marked per kilogram or per 100 grams. This type of pizza was invented in Rome, Italy.
Roman pizza al taglio came into existence in the 1960’s. These large slabs of pizza are generally thicker and softer. The main emphasis being not so much upon the visual aspect of the pizza, rather the taste and convenience of the process being the priority. The rectangular pizza shape makes it easier to cut and divide the pizza to the buyer’s desire.
Years ago, growing up on a farm, pizza was not a usual meal for our family. This was until my mother acquired a nice, little, glossy covered recipe book put out by Fleischmann’s Yeast Company. Among numerous good recipes it contained one for PIZZA! My mother baked bread every week so she had yeast baking down to a science.
I really don’t recall what it was topped with, just that it was sooo…… good! Brion and I refrain from ‘ordering’ pizza very often. Not because we don’t like it but rather just the opposite — we love it. The only problem is the calorie count is just too high. That being said, it doesn’t stop me from making a homemade version from time to time.
Today I used the crust recipe from that Fleischmann’s book and a copycat filling from Boston Pizza’s BBQ Chicken pizza. Yum!
Measure into bowl, 1 cup lukewarm water. Stir in 1 tsp sugar; sprinkle with the pkg of yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes, THEN stir well. Add 1 tsp salt & 1/4 cup oil; stir in 1 1/2 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in additional 1 1/4 cups flour. Turn out dough on a lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth & elastic. Place in a greased bowl; brush top with melted butter. Cover. Let rise in a warm place free from draft until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Toppings / Sauce
In a skillet, saute onion, red & green pepper & mushrooms in a small amount of butter. Shred mozzarella & cheddar cheeses. Chop cooked chicken. To BBQ sauce add water to make sauce consistency.
Preheat oven to 400 F. When dough is doubled in bulk, punch down. Press into a 16 x 12 x 1" baking pan. Spread BBQ sauce & water mixture over crust. Top with sauteed vegetables, chicken, mozzarella & cheddar cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for about 25 minutes or until crust is golden & cheese is melted.
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.
Couscous beyond lamb stew — sounds interesting! I never really paid much attention to couscous until we had traveled in the North African country of Morocco.
Traditional couscous is prepared with semolina. However, the name nowadays is used to refer to similar preparations made of different cereals, such as barley, millet, sorghum, rice or corn.
In Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco & Libya couscous is generally served with vegetables, cooked in a spicy broth or stew. However, in other countries, it is eaten more often as a dessert.
Couscous is made of tiny granules of various sizes. Traditional methods of preparing them are very labor intensive. The semolina is sprinkled with water and rolled by hand to form small pellets, sprinkled with dry flour to keep them separate, and then sieved. Any pellets which are too small to be finished granules of couscous and fall through the sieve will be rolled and sprinkled again with dry semolina. This process continues until all the semolina has been formed into tiny granules of couscous, which are then dried in the sun. In Western grocery stores, couscous has been pre-steamed and dried, becoming a quick food, ready in 5 minutes by adding boiling water to it.
The main ingredients found in Moroccan desserts are dried fruits with an assortment of nuts and sesame seeds. Spices such as cinnamon, cloves and cardamom along with orange blossom and rose water give that distinctive Middle Eastern taste. Rose water, a liquid distilled from rose petals with steam, dates back to ancient Greece and Persia. It was brought to Europe via treats like marzipan and Turkish delight in the Middle Ages, then later to the American colonies, where it was the most popular flavor before vanilla hit the market in the late 1800’s.
The key is to use rose water sparingly — a little goes a long way. This dessert is loosely based on ‘Moroccan Seffa’, essentially sweetened couscous sprinkled with rose water. It’s like a blank canvas, there are so many combinations you can create. One of my favorite versions starts with almond milk. You can make almond milk yourself with ground almonds and water or just purchase some in the natural section of the grocery store.
When couscous is cooked in this manner it gains a lovely, not-too-subtle almond flavor that takes to the other spices nicely. Not everyone likes rosewater but a sprinkling of it is ‘exotic’ and well worth trying.
I’ve added just a few more photos taken during our time spent in Morocco.
Sweet Almond Milk Couscous with Dried Fruit & Nuts
Today, February 13th is Shrove Tuesday also known as ‘pancake day’. As I was thinking about the subject of pancakes today, I recalled a story from many years ago that still makes me laugh. I’m sure the reason I found it so funny was due to the fact that my life’s work was spent in the commercial food industry so I could relate to the situation.
I grew up in a southern Alberta, Canada farming community. In the town there was a huge building called an Agriplex which was used for all large agricultural events. A local caterer had been hired to provide a morning breakfast to horse show competitors. She recounted this event in a cookbook she later went on to publish in 1983. It read like this:
A horse show was being held at our local Agriplex and I had agreed to provide an early morning breakfast. By opening time we felt all was ready — the counter was set with all the necessary accoutrements, iced juices were ready to pour and the pancake batter, enough to feed all of southern Alberta, stood on a TV tray right next to the hot grill. Who could ask for more? This building is located on the northwest edge of town with nothing but countryside beyond it as far as the eye can see. As well, it holds grain and hay for the various agricultural events. Thus, making it ripe territory for mice.
Every precaution had been taken to keep them out of the kitchen — traps, bait, even a cat or two. But one little field mouse had eluded all traps set for him and appeared at the vary moment of opening on a ledge behind the big stove. My first thought was to head him off at the pass. After all, that big bowl of pancake batter sat just a few feet from his inquiring nose.
As things worked out, it would have been better to let him fall into the batter. We would just have had to make new batter. But no, I took a mighty swing at him with a broom and hit the TV table which promptly collapsed. My pride and joy white crockery bowl hit the stove and broke into dozens of pieces which meant a sea of pancake batter began spreading, slowly but surely, into every crack and corner of the big stove. Some disappeared under the stove and the rest spread like glue across the floor, all over the area where we should have been standing, that very minute, flipping pancakes and cooking eggs. The mouse got away!
Sometime later, a friend of mine, gave me a copy of the cookbook as a gift. Inside the cover she had written — ‘As you read this book I’m sure it will remind you of the many funny and often not so funny things that happened to us during the years we worked together in the food industry’. Great memories!
I hope you enjoyed reading my ‘long story’ today. For my Shrove Tuesday pancakes I’m making SOUR CREAM CORN PANCAKES WITH MAPLE SYRUP.
In a large bowl, whisk together egg, sugar, milk, sour cream, butter & vanilla.
In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, & salt. Add flour mixture to liquid mixture & whisk together until no large lumps remain. Let batter rest for 15 minutes. If you wish, you can refrigerate it overnight & use for breakfast in the morning.
Heat a large non-stick electric griddle to 350 F. Using a 1/4 cup measure, scoop batter onto griddle. Top each pancake with well drained corn niblets. Cook to a golden brown on each side. Serve with warm Maple Syrup.
The puddingbrezel is a special kind of pretzel. Made with buttery ‘danish pastry’, filled with a smooth, sweet vanilla pudding. The term danish is connected to a strike among Danish bakers in the 19th century. When bakers from neighboring countries, especially Austria, were invited to work, they brought with them a new kind of dough. As soon as the strike ended, the Danish bakers started to experiment with this new dough adapting it to their needs.
This dough technique was called lamination. Although the dough is prepared with yeast, it is processed with cold ingredients. After kneading, it is folded and rolled out again multiple times to achieve the desired fluffy and flaky texture. For successful danish pastry, butter is needed as it works to separate the various layers of the dough as they bake.
To put it simply, we have an Austrian pastry that was adapted by the Danes, which is used to make a German delicacy. How is that for ‘interculinary’.
Dissolve sugar into lukewarm water & sprinkle with the yeast. Allow to stand 15 minutes. In a food processor, combine flour, sugar & salt; pulse in cold butter cubes. Mixture should resemble pea sized chunks. Remove mixture from food processor & transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Whisk together eggs & whipping cream. Stir in yeast mixture & pour over the flour mixture. Toss together with a wooden spoon, just enough to make dough form. Divide into two portions. Each portion makes about 8-10 pastries so if you don't need it all right away, double wrap one portion in plastic wrap & freeze for later. Refrigerate dough for several hours or overnight.
In a small dish, combine cornstarch with 1/4 cup milk & beat until completely smooth. Slice vanilla bean lengthwise & scrape out the seeds. Cut the remaining pod in half crosswise.
In a saucepan, add remaining 2 3/4 cups milk, sugar, salt, vanilla pulp & pod. Place on stove over high heat. As soon as the mixture begins to boil, remove from heat & add cornstarch mixture stirring constantly. Return saucepan to stove, continue cooking ONLY until bubbly & thickened. Remove from heat & take out vanilla pod. Cover with plastic wrap to avoid forming a skin as it cools.
To make PUDDINGBREZELS: Roll a portion of the dough into a 12 x 18-inch rectangle. Cut strips on the long side of the rectangle, about just over 1/2" wide. Twirl two of the strips together & form into pretzels. Transfer carefully to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, with some room in between to expand during baking. Let rise 30 minutes before filling.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Using a pastry bag, pipe cooled vanilla pudding into the two holes of each pretzel. Brush each pastry with an egg wash consisting of 1 egg whisked together with 2 Tbsp water. Bake for 15-20 minutes until lightly golden.Timing depends upon the size you chose to make your puddingbrezels.
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.
Appetizers, starters, hors d’oeuvers or whatever you want to call them, are such an important part of any gathering. They provide the ‘welcome’ and set the stage for what comes next.
A comfort food and party food all in one, Christmas and New years celebrations would not be complete without cheese. Brie, one of the world’s best known soft cheeses, originated in northeast France, but is now produced all over the world. A decadent cheese that evokes thoughts of sophistication and elegance.
Brie, a soft, creamy, off-white or yellow cheese with an edible rind is produced from whole or semi-skimmed cow’s milk. Typically described as tasting earthy, nutty, fruity, grassy and even mushroomy.
In France, Brie is very different from the cheese that is exported. ‘Real’ French Brie is unstabilized and the flavor is complex when the surface turns slightly brown. When the cheese is still pure-white, it is not matured. If the cheese is cut before the maturing process, it will never develop properly.
Possibly, the most incredible way to serve brie, is to bake it, but of course that’s just a personal opinion. However, it can be difficult to find the perfect balance between under and over baking. If you remove brie from the oven too soon, it will only stay melted for a few minutes. On the other hand, if it is left in the oven to long it will lose it’s shape and be difficult to handle.
There are a variety of brie options on the market and any of them technically work. ‘Double Cream’ (227 gm) is an excellent choice, whereas ‘Triple Cream’ will become too runny when melted.
After all these years, our memories of France, it’s food, culture, beauty and not to be forgotten — the wine (and Brion’s favorite goat cheese) have not lessened. My sister, Loretta joined us on that first trip any of us had ever made to Europe, which added to those memories of a lifetime.
I wanted to share a few BAKED BRIE recipes today that have been favorites of mine to use at this time of the year. Hope you will enjoy.
227 - 375gram wheel of Brie cheeseIf you plan to make all 3 kinds you will need 1 wheel of brie for each.
In a large saucepan, combine all chutney ingredients; mix well. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Boil 1 minute. Remove cinnamon stick. Cover & cool.
Gingered Grape Chutney
Slice grapes in half. In a saucepan, stir wine with cornstarch until dissolved. Add sugar, candied ginger & grapes. Stir over high heat until it comes to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, uncovered, stirring often until liquid thickens, 4-6 minutes. Remove from heat & stir in green onion. Cover & cool.
Place fig jam/preserves in a microwave-safe dish. Microwave for 30 seconds to soften. In a small bowl, combine the sliced, dried figs with chopped pistachios & walnuts. Add half of the fig jam & mix well to coat the nut mixture.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking pan with parchment paper. Set the brie on prepared baking sheet.
For the Blueberry or Grape Chutney: You can either bake the cheese FIRST & then add the topping or TOP it & then bake it.
For the Fig & Nuts: Before baking, coat the brie with the remainder of the jam. Top the brie with the fig & nut mixture.
Bake the brie for 12-13 minutes. At this point it should be starting to bubble on top. The trick is to leave it in the oven for as long as possible before the wheel begins to lose it's shape. You may have to leave it a bit longer. Serve the brie warm with crackers.
For best results, allow the brie to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before baking as it will ensure that the cheese melts evenly all the way through.
Brie tastes equally wonderful with a mix of both savory and sweet toppings.
In the winter of 2011, Brion and I spent a month travelling Turkey. While in Istanbul, we happened to be staying in a hotel next to a Starbucks coffee shop. By chance I tasted a ‘Pumpkin Spice Chai Latte’. That unique flavor left a lasting memory with me. Back at home, I wanted to recreate that flavor. The recipe today is what developed from that memory.
The word trifle comes from the old French term, ‘trufle’ and literally means something whimsical or of little consequence. In actual food terms, it’s anything but. A proper English trifle is made with real egg custard poured over sponge cake, soaked in fruit and sherry then topped with whipped cream.
Though a simple dessert to make, trifle looks gorgeous with its multiple layers, colors and textures. It is not only served as a dessert but used as a centerpiece on occasion.
Many puddings evolved as a way of using leftovers, thus trifle originating from stale cake. Some of the many cake choices are sponge, Genoise, ladyfingers, pound cake and macaroons. Alcohol used, often ranges greatly from sherry, white wine, rum, liqueurs and scotch as well as just using a fruit juice. In order for the flavors to marry properly, trifle needs about 8 hours of refrigeration time. In North America, trifle is synonymous with the festive Christmas season.
My blog picture is a PUMPKIN CHIA CHEESECAKE TRIFLE that I made for a Christmas event. If you like pumpkin and cheesecake this trifle is for you!
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9 x 9-inch square pan with baking spray.
In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients (through allspice). In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, egg white, milk, oil and pumpkin until thoroughly blended. Combine wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, stirring until just blended. Spread batter into the prepared pan. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds on top.
Bake until lightly browned & a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack & allow to cool completely. With a wooden skewer, poke holes in cake about 2-inches apart. Slowly pour 1/2 cup Apricot Brandy over cake. Refrigerate overnight.
In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese & pumpkin with a mixer until well blended. Add spices & dry pudding mix; beat until well blended. Gradually blend in milk.
In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese with a mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in milk. Add dry pudding mix; blend well. Fold in thawed Cool Whip.
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium bowl, coarsely crush wafers; place in medium bowl. Add butter, nuts, sugar & 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice; mix well. Spread onto the bottom of a shallow pan. Bake 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown; cool. Break cooled, baked nut mixture into smaller pieces; store in airtight container at room temperature until ready to use.
Cut pound cake into 1-inch cubes. Line bottom of a straight-sided trifle bowl with 1/3 of cake cubes, 1/3 pumpkin filling, 1/3 creme filling & 1/3 of the nut mixture. Repeat 2 more times. Decorate as desired. Drizzle with bottled Dulce de Leche Creme.