These fruit and cereal balls are an old fashioned, unique idea originally called ‘skillet cookies’. The initial mixture is made on the stovetop before its cooled slightly and rolled into mini-spheres. They’re especially appealing during the winter holidays because they don’t need to be baked. That valuable space in the oven can be used for other types of holiday baking.
The cookies get a crunch from the crispy rice cereal and pepita seeds, while the apricots and dates add an amazing sweet spicy flavor.
It seems the skillet cookie nowadays, refers to a a giant, soft and chewy cookie, baked in a cast iron pan, cut into wedges and served warm with ice cream on top. Now I have to admit, it does sound pretty good but if you are just wanting a great little addition to a casual dessert tray in the upcoming holiday season the ‘vintage’ version is quick and easy.
Crispy Apricot Date Balls
In a small bowl, whisk eggs & brown sugar together thoroughly.
In a heavy skillet, over low heat, melt butter. Remove from heat & stir in egg mixture along with dates & apricots. Set back over low heat & cook, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes or until mixture pulls away from sides of skillet. Do NOT overcook. Remove from heat & stir in vanilla, spices & salt.
Place rice cereal in a large bowl; pour fruit mixture over cereal & blend well. Cool to lukewarm.
Chop pepita seeds finely & place in a shallow dish. Butter your hands lightly & shape mixture into 1-inch balls. Roll balls in pepita seeds to coat. Store in refrigerator.
CELEBRATING CANADA DAY!
Every year Canada celebrates its birthday on July 1st with parades, fireworks and other fun events. This year, due to the pandemic and out of respect for Canada’s Indigenous people, celebrations here in our city of Edmonton, Alberta will be virtual or be on a smaller scale.
No matter which way you decide to celebrate the day, we know good food will be an important part of it. Gorgonzola has been a favorite of Brion & I for many years. It’s actually kind of surprising as neither of us care for ‘blue’ cheese or Roquefort.
Gorgonzola is one of those classic Italian ingredients that’s more famous than understood here in North America. The name itself, refers to the little town in Lombardy, near Milan, where the cheese was invented.
There are two kinds of gorgonzola, Dolce (sweet) and Piccante (spicy). In Italian these terms mean fresh verses aged cheeses. Because dolce is softer and creamier, its great for spreading on bread or used in salad dressing, pasta sauce, pizza or burgers. Piccante is harder and tends to crumble.
This turkey burger is made special with the combo of gorgonzola, bacon and guacamole. Just great for celebrating Canada Day!
Gorgonzola & Bacon Turkey Burgers
In a skillet, fry bacon until soft cooked. Remove from pan & blot on paper towel. Chop & set aside.
Using bacon drippings, saute finely chopped leeks & garlic until tender. Remove from skillet & cool.
In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, sauteed leeks & garlic, panko, salt, pepper, sugar, coriander, sage & ginger. Mix well.
Shape into (8) 1/2-inch thick patties. Place 1/8 (10 gm) of the crumbled Gorgonzola & 1/4 of chopped bacon on each of 4; top with another patty, pressing edges to seal, making (4) 1-inch thick patties.
Place on a preheated grill over medium heat. Close lid & grill, turning once, until meat is no longer pink inside, about 12-14 minutes.
Alternately, you can place them in a 375 F oven on a foil-lined tray & bake for about 20-25 minutes.
When burgers are almost done, top each with remaining Gorgonzola.
Serve in toasted ciabatta buns with your choice of toppings.
The flavors of the meal hint of Moroccan cuisine to me. It wasn’t until Brion & I visited Morocco on a holiday one year, that I realized how many of their spices appealed to me.
Moroccan cuisine is very refined because of its interactions and exchanges with other cultures and nations over the centuries. Its dishes are layered with sweet and spicy, earthy and bright flavors that reflect the vast array of spices available in their local markets.
Often referred to as the national dish of Morocco, couscous is made of tiny balls of wheat semolina, steamed so they’re are soft and fluffy. Subtle cumin and ginger spices add an exotic flavor to it.
Pairing apricot and lemon flavors with the chicken breast and serving it over couscous makes this simple meal quite special.
Apricot Lemon Chicken Breast w/ Couscous
Preheat oven to 425 F. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Beat egg & water slightly. Stir together baking mix, lemon pepper & garlic powder. Pound chicken breasts gently to achieve uniform thickness. Dip chicken into egg mixture, then coat with baking mix mixture. Place on baking sheet & drizzle with melted butter.
Bake uncovered 20 minutes; turn chicken. Bake about 10 minutes longer until no longer pink inside. While chicken is baking prepare couscous & sauce.
In a saucepan, heat 1 tsp oil; add green onion, cumin, ginger & garlic. Cook & stir for about 3 minutes until green onion is softened.
Add honey. Heat & stir for about 30 seconds until green onion is coated. Add broth. Bring to a boil. Add couscous & second amount of oil. Stir. Cover & remove from heat. Allow to stand for 5 minutes without lifting lid. Fluff with a fork & stir in remaining 3 ingredients.
Apricot Lemon Sauce
In a small saucepan over low heat, combine sauce ingredients, stirring occasionally, until warm.
Place couscous on a serving platter. Top with chicken breasts & drizzle with apricot lemon sauce. Serve.
If you can’t have a tropical vacation at this time, why not enjoy some of the tropics in the form of dessert!
You may never have thought fruits were destined for you’re roasting pan. Although it does demand a bit of time and work, the return is worth it. Try it once and you will do it over and over again.
Fruit is a highly versatile item and its uses go far beyond a mere snack. During the summer months, grilled fruit is often a tasty end to a barbeque. Grilling caramelizes the fruits natural sugars and brings out the sweetness. During winter or colder months, continue the same process indoors by roasting and broiling fruit in the oven.
For the tarts on this blog, I roasted the fruit in the oven with a bit of extra butter and brown sugar as well as some spices to enhance the flavor. Another idea would be to arrange fruit slices on the filled tarts and sprinkle them with a bit of sugar. Then place tarts under the broiler until sugar bubbles and browns …. your choice!
Roasted Tropical Fruit Tarts
In a bowl combine butter & sugar, beat until light & fluffy. In another bowl whisk together flour & baking powder & add to butter/sugar mixture. Blend together.
Divide pastry between 6 individual tart pans. Using your fingertips, evenly press the dough into pans. Place on a baking sheet & blind bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven & prepare custard & fruit.
Vanilla Cream Custard
In a small saucepan, bring milk to a simmer. In a bowl, whisk together sugar, cornstarch & salt. Add egg; whisk until blended.
Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into egg mixture. Return to same saucepan; whisk over medium heat until sauce thickens & boils, about 5 minutes. Whisk in vanilla & remove from heat to cool.
Roasted Tropical Fruit
Preheat oven to 450 F. Peel & thinly slice fruit.
In a small saucepan, melt butter & add brown sugar, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom & vanilla; mix well.
Line a baking sheet with foil paper. Place sliced fruit on it & pour butter/sugar mixture over it. Gently turn fruit over to make sure all is evenly coated.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes, flipping over about half way through. The fruit is done when it turns a rich golden & begins to brown BEFORE it starts to blacken.
Place pastry shells on a serving platter. Divide vanilla custard between tart shells. Top with roasted tropical fruit & serve. Any extra fruit can be enjoyed just as a dish of fruit or with yogurt.
Back in the later part of August (2019), I had made some buns using Teff flour that my neighbor had shared with me. We had really enjoyed them so this is my next adventure using this unique flour.
Just a bit of history — officially the world’s smallest grain, teff is only about the size of a poppy seed. It’s origin is thought to be Ethiopia and Eritrea, where it’s ability to grow in harsh conditions has made it a staple grain of these cultures.
Teff flour is high in protein, iron, calcium and it contains all 8 essential amino acids. This is due to the fact the tiny grains are so small, when they are milled, the hull is left intact rather than removed.
Teff is rich tasting and very versatile, lending a subtle nuttiness and mild molasses-like sweetness to any baked good. Teff grain and flour are good alternatives to wheat, barley and rye for those on a gluten-free diet.
These muffins are an interesting combination of flavors well worth a try.
Pumpkin Hazelnut Muffins with Teff Flour
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the hot water & ground chia to form a slurry. Add the remaining wet ingredients & beat together using an electric mixer. Pour the wet into the dry & whisk together. Spoon into muffin cups.
Bake about 30 minutes or until test done. Remove from oven & pan; cool on a wire rack.
Its already late August so BBQ’s and salads are in full swing. There’s just something about cooking food outdoors on the grill that we Canadians absolutely love. If your a true BBQ lover, it doesn’t matter if its a block away, you will still catch that glorious smell.
BBQ season is not only for meat eaters. Just about any vegetable as well as numerous desserts can be cooked on the grill. For me, I love seafood, fish & chicken, for Brion, I guess I would have to add a bit of pork and beef.
This meal is a nice combination of shrimp, Parmesan zucchini and pasta salad. I kept the pasta salad real simple since we already had a vegetable. To give it some extra pizzaz, I made a roasted red pepper sauce which the little orecchietti pasta cups nicely. Nothing fancy, just plain good!
Shrimp Kabobs with Orecchietti Pasta Salad
Quick Roasted Red Pepper Sauce / Pasta
Red Pepper Sauce
In a food processor, blend red roasted peppers along with 2 Tbsp of liquid from the jar. Puree the peppers until smooth, adding a Tbsp or two of water if needed to help it blend ( avoid adding too much liquid from the jar as it can be very acidic). Mince the garlic & add it to a skillet with the butter. Saute for 1-2 minutes or just until garlic has softened but not brown. Pour in the pureed peppers; add basil & pepper & stir to combine.
Allow sauce to come to a simmer; turn heat to low & simmer about 10 minutes, stirring often, until mixture thickens. Add cream, stirring until smooth. Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted boiling water until al dente about 12-13 minutes. Drain & add to sauce. Serve warm or cold.
In a bowl, whisk together all shrimp marinade ingredients; add shrimp & marinate at least 30 minutes.
Prepare zucchini. In a bowl, combine Parmesan & garlic powder. Melt butter; toss zucchini slices in butter then coat with Parmesan mixture. On wooden skewers, alternate marinated shrimp with cubes of Parmesan zucchini. Roast in oven or on BBQ until shrimp is pink & cooked being careful not to overcook. Serve with orecchiette pasta salad.
- This tomato-free sauce could also be used as an alternative to a traditional pizza sauce.
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.
Chai Puffed Wheat Squares / Rice Krispie Treats
Chai Puffed Wheat Squares
Chai Puffed Wheat Squares
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.
In 2015, Brion & I spent sometime living in Cuenca, Ecuador. We had rented an apartment in the central part of the city. Over the three months we were there, I compiled a little diary of ‘recipes’ I developed, that would work for me. The criteria had to be: foods that were available, seasoning that tasted familiar and meals that could be cooked with the limited kitchen equipment and pots/pans.
Something we realized early on when shopping for various spices, was how important it was to know what the spice was called in Spanish. Such as Cumin- ‘Comino’, Marjoram- ‘Mejorana’, Ginger- ‘Jengibre’. It seems that they had most of the spices if you knew what to look for. Probably the only one that couldn’t be found was Chili Powder. When it came to Soy Sauce, even the familiar brands had a different taste. In the process of trying to replicate flavors we were used to, I decided to make my own versions.
Here’s where a little ‘recipe development’ came into play. Normally teriyaki sauce would have a little ‘mirin’ (sweet cooking rice wine) or sake in it. I was able to come up with a fairly good ‘stand in’ with a few simple ingredients. Fresh shrimp were always available at the seafood markets. You could buy half a kilo for $4.00 Canadian. Rice, as long as you were not looking for the ‘minute’ variety, was in huge supply. Anyway, to make a long story short, today’s recipe was one that became a favorite of ours during that time.
If you care to read a few more articles I have posted in my blogs about our time in Ecuador check out ‘Dutch Apple Pie’ in April 2016 & ‘Fresh Cherry Scones’ in July 2016.
Parmesan Shrimp Rice Bake
In a small bowl, marinate raw, cleaned shrimp in soy sauce, honey, water, ginger & garlic powder for at least 30 minutes or longer. Cook rice in chicken broth.
In a small bowl, combine Parmesan & garlic powder. Melt margarine; toss zucchini slices in it, then coat with Parmesan mixture.
In a round, 8" baking pan, alternate drained shrimp (reserve marinade) & zucchini slices to form bottom layer. Top with cooked rice. Drizzle marinade from shrimp over rice. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
We really enjoyed having this meal with warm cornbread.
Gingerbread (cake) is the perfect sweet/spicy dessert for fall and winter, flavored by a ‘strange lumpy little root’. I recall my mother baking gingerbread cake for our supper dessert. She would serve it warm with farm fresh whipped cream. For lack of a better expression, ‘it was to die for’. Strangely enough, I was never fond of molasses but certainly enjoyed that warm gingerbread cake!?
Gingerbread has been baked in Europe for centuries. In some places it was soft, delicately spiced cake, in others, a crisp, flat cookie. Then in other places, warm, thick, dark squares of bread served with lemon sauce or whipped cream.
At first, gingerbread was made with breadcrumbs and sweetened with honey, but as it made its way throughout the world it has been adapted to meet the taste of different cultures. In North America, along with the ground ginger we usually like to add cinnamon, and cloves. Molasses is usually labeled as ‘sulphured’ or ‘unsulphured’ depending on whether sulphur was used in the processing. The unsulphured molasses is lighter in color and tends to have a nicer flavor.
Brion does not remember ever eating gingerbread cake?? I’m going to try to bring back the taste of a memory with this classic little cake and see what he thinks.
Classic Gingerbread Cake
Applesauce is such a great addition in that it adds to the cake moistness.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9-inch square baking dish with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, cream together sugar & butter until lightened in color & fluffy. Beat in egg, molasses, applesauce & hot water until fully combined.
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger & cloves. Whisk into wet ingredients, mixing ONLY until blended.
Bake for 30-35 minutes until cake springs back when touched or a knife inserted comes our clean.
From breakfast to dessert, healthy to decadent, traditional to innovative, the carrot cake is considered a timeless classic that never goes out of ‘style’. It was probably borne out of necessity, making use of the carrots’ natural sweetness, evolving from the carrot pudding of medieval times. Carrots contain more sugar than any other vegetable besides the sugar beet.
In the 1970’s, carrot cake was perceived as being ‘healthy’ due to the fact that carrots, raisins and nuts are all ‘good for us’. Then along came that glorious cream cheese frosting that forever bonded the pair. While raisins are undoubtedly the oldest compliment to carrots, pineapple, apples or applesauce as well as walnuts have all become modern day add-ins of choice.
I remember my mother making a jelly roll cake when I was growing up. It was a sponge cake baked in a sheet pan. She would spread a layer of jam over it when it was cool and roll it up. It looked unique and tasted great. Of course, today a cake roll is very common place with many variations. As far as carrots are concerned, you can transform this versatile veggie into everything from energy bars and smoothies to cinnamon rolls and cookies etc, etc, etc…. My choice today is to make a CARROT CAKE ROLL with CREAM CHEESE FILLING, yum!!
Carrot Cake Roll
Carrot Cake Roll
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a jelly roll pan ( 10 x 15") with parchment paper & spray with baking spray.
With a hand mixer, beat eggs on high for 5 minutes, until frothy & dark yellow. Beat in sugar, oil & vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt & spices. Stir into wet ingredients just until blended. Fold in dry carrots.
Spread batter in prepared pan. This makes a very thin layer; use a spatula to make sure it is spread evenly to the corners of pan. Bake 10-15 minutes. Test cake with a toothpick to be sure it is completely baked. While cake is baking, spread a clean kitchen towel on work surface. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. As soon as cake comes out of oven, turn it over on towel. Remove parchment paper carefully.
Working at the short end, fold the edge of the towel over cake. Using the help of the towel, roll cake tightly. Let cool completely while rolled, at least an hour.
While cake is cooling, make filling. Beat butter & cream cheese together until smooth. Stir in powdered sugar & vanilla; beat until smooth.
When cake is cool, carefully unroll the towel. Spread the filling evenly over cake & re-roll tightly. Chill about 30 minutes to an hour. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired, slice & serve.