cooking

No enchiladas in the icebox, and the television’s broke

(Bonus points if you recognize the title of this post as being from Pat Boone’s 1962 single “Speedy Gonzales”.)

Today, I come to you not with a decadent dessert, but with a quick and easy entrΓ©e. I’m pretty sure my junior-high Home Ec. teacher wouldn’t classify this as food, and I secretly kind of agree with her (purely hypothetical) assessment, but when you’re hungry but also unmotivated, this does the trick.

I first spotted this “recipe” on Buzzfeed, which of course sources its content from Reddit, whose original poster saw a video for this on TikTok. This feels a bit like the 21st century version of passing a recipe down through the generations, albeit at warp speed.

Preheat your oven to 400Β°F, grease a baking dish, and let’s get started.

Start with some frozen Taquitos. I used plant-based ones from my favourite independent grocery store, but any kind will work. Once your oven is up to temperature, pop them in there for 10 minutes.

Once your 10 minutes are up, turn them over and pour a can of enchilada sauce over the works. I used verde sauce which admittedly looks a bit nasty in photographs but smells and tastes heavenly. Sprinkle some shredded cheese over the top (my designated shopper brought me old Cheddar), and put them back in the oven for another 10 minutes.

Crispy shells and melted cheese? Check and check.

Et voilΓ , lazy enchiladas in 20 minutes. Like I said, maybe it’s not food-food, but it’s quicker and cheaper than hitting up the local drive-through. It’s also no slower than making Taquitos the usual way, so for 20 minutes the choice is yours. I made these a couple of times over the holidays, and they hit the spot.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

baking

Just kidding, pumpkin spice…we love you!

I had to go at least a little pumpkin-y while the season still permits, didn’t I? Don’t get me wrong, the apple bread is still firmly in my repertoire, but it’s nestled in there right beside pumpkin as an autumn-y bake.

I’ll keep it short and sweet, because Christmas crafting time is ticking away, and you’ve got better things to do than listen to me wax poetic about pumpkin, don’t you? Besides, this baking adventure wasn’t born out of sentimentality, but of pragmatism: I had a container of pumpkin in the fridge as well as half a brick of cream cheese, and I wanted to use them both up.

Over the years, I’ve mish-mashed a few pumpkin cupcake recipes together and honed the finished result until it was perfect. So without further ado, I present…pumpkin spice cupcakes with cinnamon-cream cheese frosting.

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk* (see note)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (or more, if you’re a fan – I used a heaping teaspoon)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • a pinch of ground cloves
  • *NOTE: if you want these to be pumpkin spice latte cupcakes, you can dissolve 4 1/2 tsp. instant coffee in your milk. And if you want these extra-coffee flavoured, keep about 1/4 cup from your morning pot of joe set aside to brush on the tops of the cupcakes before frosting them.
  1. Preheat oven to 350Β°F, and line a 12-cavity cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
  2. In a medium-to-large bowl, stir together pumpkin, oil, sugar, milk, and vanilla. Sift in the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
  3. Fill liners 2/3 full and bake for 20 – 24 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool completely on a cooling rack before frosting. If you’re going the coffee route, it’s easier to brush the tops with it while they’re still warm-ish.

For the frosting:

  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon (attention, cinnamon lovers: my teaspoon was heaping to the point of being nearly 2 tsp.)
  • 2 to 3 cups powdered sugar, depending on desired consistency
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  1. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the cream cheese and cinnamon on medium-high speed until smooth and well combined, about 2 minutes.
  2. Sift in the powdered sugar and beat until combined, adding more as needed to achieve the consistency you want.
  3. Add the vanilla and beat on high speed until well combined and creamy. Frost your cupcakes, and marvel at the flavour explosion.

If cinnamon isn’t your thing, these are also great topped with a whipped cream topping like I did here.

And now, back to holiday crafting. Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

baking

Take that, pumpkin spice!

As soon as the calendar flipped over to October and I could start thinking autumn-y thoughts without feeling like a total weirdo (says the girl who had her first pumpkin spice latte of the year sometime in August), I decamped to my baking buddy’s kitchen to try out a recipe from Ree Drummond for cinnamon apple bread. It wasn’t going to take much more effort to double the recipe so we each got a loaf out of the deal.

The best part? When I first floated the idea by him, he came back with, “I’ll chop the apples!”

No way was I going to pass up that offer. While he diced, I prepared the pans and got the dry ingredients together, and we finished at almost the exact same time. Teamwork makes the dream work!

The recipe name is a little bit of a misnomer: the only cinnamon in it is used to coat the apples.

Once he finished up with his A+ dicing, we got the wet ingredients together, added them to my carefully assembled dry ingredients, and folded in the apples and pecans before divvying it up between the pans.

It’s not super inspiring-looking here, but it gets better. Promise.

Told you!

The recipe recommends baking for an hour-ish, and after half an hour the house smelled like warm apple goodness. It’s hard not to get your hopes up when something smells that good, and luckily, this didn’t disappoint.

He even had a little jar of apricot jam at the ready to be warmed up in the microwave and brushed over the tops of the loaves. I wasn’t convinced that step was necessary – I just figured it would make things sticky, and I don’t like sticky fingers (apologies to the Rolling Stones). But I’m glad he talked me into it! Look at the difference between the glazed loaf (on the right) and the to-be glazed loaf:

They came out perfectly!

This recipe is definitely going in our “make again” pile. It’s moist and flavourful, although we agreed we’d add some cinnamon to the batter the next time (or maybe nutmeg). I’m also told the leftovers make great French toast, and can’t wait to try that the next time.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

cooking

I am not a…salad?

Earlier this summer when the temperatures were high and my motivation to do much of anything was low, I spent a few consecutive evenings camped out on the couch and watching DVD’s from my collection. One night’s feature presentation was Dick, which is a fictional take on the Watergate scandal. High cinema? Hardly. But it had a recognizable cast and a good soundtrack, and there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half.

Some time after that, I was leafing through my mom’s copy of Retro Recipes from the ’50s and ’60s: 103 Vintage Appetizers, Dinners, and Drinks Everyone Will Love (this was a Mother’s Day gift from me, and 100% worth it just for the photos, even if you don’t ever plan on making liver and onions or beef Wellington), when I came across Watergate Salad in the “Side Dishes” section. Reading through the ingredients, I thought that calling it a side dish might be stretching it a bit…but also, I really wanted to make it!

I assembled my ingredients…

Kraft created this recipe to showcase their new-at-the-time pistachio pudding mix, and originally called it “Pistachio Pineapple Delight” before a newspaper columnist gave it its more infamous name. I call it a misnamed dessert.

The pineapple, pudding mix, and pecans get thrown into a mixing bowl along with the marshmallows.

It’s still not a salad, but at least it’s still fairly benign-looking at this point.

Not for long, though…

What the heck, Kraft? This looks like one of those queasy-making dishes you see at Halloween. (“Zombie Brains”!) Folding in the Cool Whip helped a bit.

By the time I was spreading it in the pan, it looked like the picture in the book.

The recipe called for an 8″ baking dish; I went larger than that after looking at how much was in the bowl. (I think my problem might have been a larger container of Cool Whip than the recipe called for, but in my defense it was not labelled as being 8 oz and was also the only size available at the store, so…)

Also of interest: the recipe said it could either be scooped or sliced for serving, and I had my doubts at first. Until…

I’ll be darned! That stuff really held its shape, and I’m not sure if that’s a selling point or not.

By the way, if you’re wanting to try this for yourself, here’s a very similar recipe to the one in the book.

I’m not sure what it is, but it’s definitely not a salad. Even Ambrosia salad feels more salad-like, somehow. Perhaps it’s best enjoyed with shlocky 70s-by-way-of-the-90s nostalgia. It’s cool and light, though, and my mom loved it – so I guess the book was a good investment.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

baking

Cherry, cherry, where you goin’ to?

If you’ve been following my crafty exploits for a while, you’ll know that every summer the cherry tree in the yard produces far more cherries than I care to deal with. To top it off, they’re sour cherries so they don’t make a great snacking fruit. I’ve made jam and cherry crisp in the past, and tried throwing them into muffins with great success, but surely there had to be something else to do with them.

As it turned out, I had a pack of ladyfingers in the pantry from a month or two ago when I had visions of making this icebox cake during strawberry season. It didn’t happen, for a few different reasons, and I knew I wasn’t just going to open the package and eat them like cookies. Would the recipe work with cherries instead of strawberries?

I managed to make cherry picking a bit less arduous this year by grabbing a bowl and picking for as long as it took to fill it. This was somewhere in the 15-20 minute range; definitely doable.

I have problems with recipes that call for fruit (or what-have-you) to be chopped. I’m meticulous rather than speedy…some of my helpers are the opposite.

I followed the recipe pretty much exactly. It’s a lot harder (skipping right along to about halfway through the recipe) adding cherries to the whipped cream mixture without any of the juices, since they tend to be juicier than strawberries are. I tried, though, and I’m not entirely dissatisfied with the pretty pink colour the whipped cream took on.

If you don’t count the time taken for cleaning and chopping the fruit, this recipe actually comes together really fast. And fun fact: apparently my pan flares a bit toward the top, because I was able to fit extra ladyfingers on the second layer.

The last couple of times I’ve made this recipe (with strawberries), it’s been hot as all get-out and I haven’t felt like turning on the oven to make the crumbly topping…but I got an early jump on it and was able to not heat up the house too badly. This is after I crumbled it up; pre-crumbling, it looks a little…gross. So no before picture, sorry.

Et voilΓ !

I love the dark pops of colour the cherries offer! It looks like a more sophisticated version of the original strawberry take. But…how does it look? How does it taste?

It cut so cleanly, and lifted out of the (ungreased) pan with zero difficulty. As summer desserts go, this is a good one! It’s light and goes down really easy, and because I used the crispy ladyfingers rather than the soft ones, they retained some of their original texture and contrasted nicely with the whipped cream and fruit (and crunchy topping). It’s not too sweet, either, thanks to the sour cherries. I love that I’ve got something I can use them in now, besides jam and more jam. πŸ˜‰

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

P.S. What inspired my post title? Click here!

cooking

*Slightly* less magical than Disney…

Last weekend was supposed to have been hot as all get-out and since turning on the oven to bake sounded less-than-appealing, we decided this was our opportunity to try one of those copycat Dole Whip recipes that proliferate on Pinterest. Who needs a passport and a plane ticket when one can recreate all the magic of a Disney park in one’s own kitchen?

If you search out “copycat Dole Whip” online, there are tons of recipes to choose from. I went for this one, which seemed the most true to the recipe released by Disney a couple of years ago and didn’t include any weird add-ins like sugar (the pineapple and ice cream are full of it already, thanks) or lime juice (just…what?).

I had no idea that frozen pineapple even existed until I sought it out for this recipe. We used about half the package (or 2 cups-ish), plus a “big scoop” (~3/4 cup) of vanilla ice cream, and 1/4 cup of pineapple juice.

This view of the blender holds promises of infinite riches, of creamy, tropical bliss. Now, the recipe says that the frozen pineapple chunks should be set out “a few minutes ahead of time”, without really specifying what “a few minutes” is. Diligently photographing my packaged ingredients and then measuring them all out and adding them to the blender surely took “a few minutes”; what the recipe did not tell us is that that was not nearly enough time, and that trying to blend everything now would result in a solid, seized-up frozen chunk that would need to be poked with a stick like some sort of dead body in the woods in order to start moving around the blender.

I feel like if the four kids in Stand by Me had been on a quest to look at frozen pineapple, the movie would never have been a success. Ahem.

After much poking and pulsing, everything more or less came together and looked like the pictures I was seeing online. The recipes almost unanimously agree that to get a classic soft-serve look, this should be spooned into a piping bag and swirled into your cup or bowl.

What they don’t tell you, however, is that any pineapple chunks that escaped the blender’s blades will block the piping tip, resulting in more poking with a stick (a chopstick this time, and not a wooden spoon).

Me: Do you want to just spoon this into the bowls and eat it?

Him: Yup.

It might not have been much to look at, but it was cool and refreshing. Shockingly, the stick-poking didn’t deter us from wanting to try it again – albeit with slightly thawed pineapple next time.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

baking

It’s two! Two! Two desserts in one!

Does anyone remember the old Certs commercials? (“Two! Two! Two mints in one!”) I just thought that my local stores had stopped carrying them, but apparently they’ve been discontinued altogether. Sigh. In other news, I’m still working on that time machine…

Speaking of a blast from my past: when I was a fresh-faced recent university graduate, I had a less-than-stellar job. I know, who would have imagined? Graduating and not waltzing into six figures and a corner office? I also had a terrifically inappropriate and un-PC nickname for it, but I’ll settle here for calling it “the Farm”, which is the version that won’t get me sent for sensitivity training. There’s not a lot of good that came from my time at the Farm, except for two recipes that the other farm girls shared with me.

One of those recipes was for chocolate brownie cookies. I hadn’t thought about that recipe in years, but when I stumbled across it again recently, I couldn’t not try it.

First, gather the following:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup real mayonnaise
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 6 oz semisweet chocolate, chopped *
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

* I used half a bag of semisweet “chips and chunks”, for interest and texture

Preheat oven to 375o F (190o C). Grease two cookie sheets. In a large bowl, stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and baking soda. In another bowl, with an electric mixer, beat together sugar, mayonnaise, eggs, and vanilla for 2-3 minutes until well mixed and creamy. Add the mayonnaise mixture to the flour mixture, stirring just until the flour is incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chunks and chopped walnuts.

Drop batter by heaping teaspoons onto prepared cookie sheets, at least 2″ (5 cm) apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes until cookies have puffed up and are dry on top but rich, moist, and gooey on the inside. Remove to a rack to cool. Makes 4 dozen cookies.

I recruited my baking buddy, and we were on our way!

It took a goodly bit of wrist action to get everything incorporated. When I first added the wet ingredients to the dry, the dry just kind of coated the wet, like a flour-y, cocoa-y blob. (Which sounds like the most delicious horror movie ever, if I’m being honest.)

Clearly my farm-girl friend had never heard of parchment paper. I assure you, the cookies turned out fine despite not using greasy cookie sheets.

Look! At! These! I think I squealed when I saw the dry, crackly brownie top these got. This might be a good spot to mention that we only set the oven to 350o F – as one typically will for cookies – and averaged 8-9 minutes per sheet instead of the 10-12 in the recipe. They came out perfectly moist and brownie-like, not undercooked at all. I can’t imagine what 10-12 at the elevated temperature would have done.

It made me a little sad, thinking of all the years I could have been eating these but wasn’t. Imagine the best brownie you’ve ever had, but in a cookie form – and with a way better edge-to-centre ratio. This will definitely be in regular rotation going forward.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

baking

Just like Grandma used to make…

I’m not kidding, guys. The bake I’m sharing today is my grandmother’s recipe. I can’t share the actual recipe here under penalty of haunting, but here’s one that’s relatively similar. Just, you know, not as good (of course). πŸ˜‰

These were the sugar cookies I remember growing up, and they’re different than most. I was…pretty old…before I realized that when most people say “sugar cookie” they mean some weird, buttery cutouts decorated to the nines with icing that’s very pretty but makes my teeth hurt to look at it. The cookies I knew used Crisco, giving them a beautiful, neutral flavour; they were sprinkled with coloured sugar before baking, giving them a pleasing crunch. They’re never too sweet, but sparkle prettily on a plate. When I was a kid, my mom used to get out her shaped cookie cutters at Christmas and enlist her helpers to sprinkle sugar in artistic and realistic designs – but when I got older, I learned they taste just as good cut out in plain circles with a little red-white-green sugar on top for colour.

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, I got the idea to cut them out into heart shapes and use a variety of coloured sugars to try and recreate a conversation heart aesthetic. If you’ve been with me for a while, you’ll know that I’ve got a bit of a thing for conversation hearts.

And look at them, sparkling prettily!

The big cookie cutter was bigger than I realized, so I soon switched to an antique one (with a wooden handle and all!) to churn out some smaller cookies.

“But wait!” I hear you say, “What’s conversational about these?”

I did prepare a batch of bright-pink royal icing, ready to pipe all sorts of sweet and snarky sentiments, but…it wasn’t to be. I used a recipe from a pretty well-known baking blogger, and although it came together perfectly – and stiffly – in the bowl, it was a mess on the cookies. It might be OK for flooding the entire surface with icing, but not for detailed work. Would I use that recipe again?

About the only positive thing I can say, besides the fact that it dried glossy and gorgeous just like the recipe said, is that it might be handy for people who are bashful about declaring their feelings and don’t want to put themselves out there too much:

“‘Be mine’? No, that says, uh, ‘Mr. Mint’.”

So while I did not wind up with my bevy of conversation hearts, I did wind up with a really delicious batch of sugar cookies to show for it, which is a victory in my books.

Thanks for looking – Happy Valentine’s Day!

baking

Twice as good as uno cotto…

When I was a young ‘un, I understood that “biscotti” meant “a rather hard, crisp cookie found in hipster coffee shops”. While that definition wasn’t necessarily wrong, it didn’t tell the whole story, and it wasn’t until many years later that my language-loving self learned that it came from the Italian for “twice cooked”. “Bi” = “two”; “cotti” = “baked”.

The twice-baked nature of biscotti makes them a little fussier than just making a drop cookie, but when I found myself craving a very specific flavour combination a couple of weeks ago, I knew it was going to demand those crispy edges, that texture. I managed to find the recipe I used the last time I made them (about, oh, four jobs ago) and altered it to suit my needs: about 2 Tbsp orange zest grated into the batter, and 1/2 cup chopped pistachios instead of the chopped cherries called for.

It’s hard to tell from the picture above, but that bowl smelled of orange zest and almond extract at that point and was making the whole kitchen smell good.

Once the chocolate chips and pistachios were mixed in, I shaped the dough into two loaves for the first bake (prima cottura?) After the loaves were slightly golden and set, they cooled off for ten minutes before slicing diagonally into 1/2″ slices.

I had…issues…with the slicing part. While I admit that I did not have a ruler handy to ensure perfect 1/2″ intervals, the recipe didn’t exactly tell me what kind of angle I was supposed to use. If I tried to cut them thin-ish (i.e. 1/2″-ish), they’d be so thin that they’d break and crumble; if I cut them thicker, they’d…break and crumble, but also be really thick. No way was I getting the projected 18 slices out of the first loaf. On the second loaf, I thought I was smart when I started by cutting it in half, thinking it would be easier to sub-divide each half into 9 slices. Oh, how wrong I was.

Once the loaves were hacked into as many viable slices as possible, in they went for their second bake. The recipe specifies “cut edge down”, as though there are a bunch of home bakers out there who try to balance them on edge. After 8-10 minutes on one side, and then flipped for 5 more minutes, they were a delightful golden brown colour.

They weren’t going to be winning any beauty contests, but don’t judge a book by its cover: my test audience loved these. They had a much more sophisticated flavour combination than your garden-variety chocolate chip cookie and provided a nice palate reset after weeks of rich holiday baking. I have no idea how to get around my slicing issues (but am open to suggestions!) but haven’t counted this recipe out yet.

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚

baking

Schlemiel, schlimazel…schmoo?

I admit that I had to look this up – as a kid, I thought they were just nonsense words – but the schlemiel and schlimazel that Laverne and Shirley sang about at the start of the opening credits may be explained thusly: a schlemiel is a bit of an awkward and clumsy individual, the type who’s always spilling his hot soup; a schlimazel is the poor guy upon whom that spilled soup lands.

But a schmoo (or shmoo)? What you’ve got there is a delicious cake!

Full disclosure: although I live in the land of the schmoo torte, I’ve never tried it. The local grocery store bakeries don’t make it, and schlepping to specialty bakeries isn’t normally my thing. I had a pretty good idea of what went into one, though, and when I had occasion to bake a birthday dessert recently, I wanted to try my own twist on this classic. According to Wikipedia, it’s commonly made with angel food cake or sponge cake as the base; any recipes I found online, however, called for chopped pecans to be folded into the batter or else ground pecans, and that sounded too rich for my taste. Also, I’m not a fan of angel food cake. I know it’s supposed to be a virtuous dessert choice with its reduced fat content and light texture, but whenever I have it I feel like I’m chewing on a kitchen sponge. So, I went with an old standby:

Yeah, yeah, laugh it up. If you’ve been following my culinary adventures for a while, you’ll know that although I make a mean chocolate cupcake from scratch, a vanilla cupcake that’s as light, moist, and flavourful as my chocolate ones has been an ongoing search. These ones bake up perfectly.

I might need lessons in filling my liners evenly…

I let those cool completely…OK, overnight…and then made this cream cheese whipped cream to fill and frost them. Yes, fill and frost. Hey, just because I wasn’t incorporating pecans into the batter, didn’t mean these wouldn’t be decadent as all get-out! (What, you thought I was going to use the frosting from the box?)

My cupcake corer is probably my favourite little kitchen gadget, and this is why. I made the full batch of the whipped cream, and I’m so glad I did. These golden babies were filled to the gills.

This whipped cream is seriously the best. It’s not overly sweet, but the cream cheese keeps it stable so that it holds its shape and doesn’t separate, and gives it a nice flavour while it’s at it.

Immediately before serving, I drizzled caramel sauce generously over those creamy white peaks and sprinkled chopped pecans over top.

The birthday boy (and everybody else) loved them, even those who aren’t normally fans of vanilla – always a bonus!

Thanks for looking! πŸ™‚