Friday, 28 December 2012

The Best (and Worst) of Caker Cooking

What a banner year it's been for Caker Cooking! I’ve heard from cakers coast-to-coast, made some apple head doll friends and even got interviewed on the CBC! I also have a line of preservatives coming out, but more on that later.

Needless to say, it was pretty hard when it came to choosing my favourite caker dishes from 2012. It's like asking me to choose between plain and rippled. Beta and VHS. Blanche and Dorothy. But I persevered and managed to narrow it down to the dishes that had me going back for thirds.  

So, without further adieu, here are my five best caker recipes from 2012:

When Caker Cooking reader, Bob, sent in this recipe, I didn’t give it much thought. Then I made it. Life as I know it is now divided into two sections: pre-Tang Pie and post-Tang Pie. Best eaten frozen.





Sometimes, I forget all the crap I’ve eaten over the years. So imagine my surprise and delight when I remembered – in the midst of making it – how much I love Lemon Fluff. There’s a good four inches of foamy yellow heaven in every bite.





Perfect for those nights when you don’t feel like putting on the track pants and heading out to McDonald’s. This sauce makes any homemade burger taste that much more special. It also makes a great moisturizer. 









The Battle of the Skor Bars champion! (Now there’s a sentence you don’t hear every day.) Caker Cooking reader, Carmelle, showed me the path to paradise is paved with Ritz crackers – as if there were any doubts.







And my best recipe from 2012 is…

The dish that kicked Schwartzies Hash Browns’ butt to the curb! I literally fell in love and I’m thrilled to announce that Potato Casserole and I are now expecting. If it’s a boy, we’re calling him Spud. If it’s a girl, Velveeta Louise.






Because everyone likes to trash talk, here are my five worst caker recipes from 2012:

Do stale bread cubes dipped in cheddar cheese soup sound good to you? Apparently, I missed the memo.






When a caker woman preaches, y’all need to listen, m’kay?








I thought this would look pretty. Instead, it looked like rainbow barf.







It’s not that they tasted bad. But any recipe involving icing sugar and mashed potatoes deserves to be publicly shamed. Just go get yourself some After Eight Mints and call it a day. (Silver-plated holder optional.)






And my worst caker recipe from 2012 is…

Pretty much guaranteed to send any vegetarian into the streets screaming for meat. 

Come on back in January! I've got a ton of new cakery in store for 2013.

God help us all. 



Monday, 24 December 2012

Caker Christmas 2012

I can't think of a better way to celebrate surviving the Apocalypse than by eating caker food. So it's only fitting that my annual Caker Christmas party took place the day after the end of the world. (To be safe, I held off getting supplies until late Friday. No point spending a good $20 on food if no one's around to enjoy it.)

This year, I switched things up and went with a vintage theme. All recipes had to come from cookbooks from the '50s and '60s. The goal was to make the food more “edible.” (Not my words.) After serving my Italian guests a vintage cocktail (Tom Collins was the most popular) and giving them a tour of my Christmas crafts (they seemed to like the macaroni tree best, but no surprises there), we settled in to eat. So was the food more edible? Read on to find out.

Snax
Someone picked out everything but the Cheerios. I hate that. These weren't bad.

1/4 pound margarine
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
3 cups Cheerios
2 cups Shreddies
1/2 package bite size cheese flavoured pretzels or pretzel sticks

Melt margarine; add Worcestershire sauce and seasonings and mix well. Place remaining ingredients in one large pan. Pour margarine mixture over them. Mix gently but thoroughly. Bake in 250° oven for 1 hour, stirring frequently. Cool thoroughly. Store in airtight container.

Source: Trenton Memorial Cookbook, The Women's Auxiliary of the Canadian Armed Forces, 1969

Cheese Ball
I had to cheat with some of the appetizers because I couldn’t find many recipes in my vintage cookbooks. Maybe past generations didn’t eat before they ate like we do nowadays. I put my ball on the pine cone tray I bought during Bazaar-o-Rama.

1 package cream cheese, room temperature
1 package Imperial cheddar (red container), room temperature
¼ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons finely chopped green onion
2 teaspoons finely chopped celery
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Cream together cream cheese and cheddar. Add remaining ingredients and blend well. Shape into ball. Wrap loosely in foil and chill until firm. Then roll in either caraway seeds or chopped walnuts.

Source: Let's Break Bread Together, The United Churches in Canada, 1988

Chips n’ Dip
A tub of sour cream and a package of onion soup mix never done no potato chip no wrong. Just let this sit in the fridge overnight. Thanks to The Vintage Cabin for my glam chip n’ dip set.

1 tub sour cream
1 package onion soup mix

Source: Every caker basement party in the '70s.




Macaroni and Cheese
I thought this one would be a safe bet. How can you can go wrong with Macaroni and Cheese? Turns out you can. Pretty darn bland. Velveeta, you have forsaken me.

1 7-ounce package long macaroni
Salted water
¼ pound Velveeta cheese, diced
¼ pound mild cheddar cheese, grated
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook macaroni in boiling salted water. Drain. Place in baking dish. Stir in cheeses and butter. Mix egg, milk, salt and pepper. Pour over macaroni. Bake at 325 degrees for about 1 hour until slightly browned, stirring occasionally.

Source: The Beta Sigma Phi International Cookbook: Casseroles, 1969

Ravioli Buffet Casserole
At this year's party, I learned that some Italians weren’t allowed to eat Chef-Boy-Ar-Dee as kids. Tragic. Needless to say, people were making up for lost time with this casserole.

2 15-ounce cans Chef Boy-Ar-Dee Beef Ravioli
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 cup sliced fresh or canned mushrooms
½ pound beef sirloin
1 10-ounce package frozen green beans
½ cup beef bouillon
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon flour
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Arrange ravioli in 2 tiered rows around edge of 8x11 baking dish. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in skillet. Sauté mushrooms until golden. Remove from pan. Melt remaining butter. Add beef. Brown well. Return mushrooms to pan. Add green beans, breaking block in pieces. Add bouillon and salt. Bring mixture to a boil. Cover, cook gently for 10 minutes. Mix flour with enough water to make a thin paste. Add to liquid. Cook until thickened. Spoon vegetable mixture into centre of baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Cover. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Source: The Beta Sigma Phi International Cookbook: Casseroles, 1969

Frankfurter Crown Casserole
Old Man Finger Casserole
Can we all just agree that no good has ever come from splitting a wiener down the middle? Especially when the tips turn out looking like old man fingers.

2 slices bacon
½ cup chopped onion
1 can cream of mushroom soup
½ cup water
½ teaspoon salt
dash of pepper
3 cups sliced cooked potatoes
1 cup cut cooked green beans
½ lb. frankfurters, split lengthwise and cut in half.

Cook bacon in skillet. Remove. Crumble bacon. Cook onion in drippings. Stir in soup, water, salt and pepper. Add potatoes and beans. Pour into a 1 ½ quart casserole. Stand frankfurters up around edge. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Top with bacon.

Source: The Beta Sigma Phi International Cookbook: Casseroles, 1969

Potato Balls
Being a caker event, there had to be ball-shaped food. These potato balls got mixed reviews. Some thought there were pretty good. Others found them dry. I found them round, which was good enough for me.

Take 1 large spoon cold mashed potatoes. Put small dab of butter in middle of and roll into a ball. (Flour hands if necessary.) Beat 1 egg. Add 2 tablespoons milk. Roll potato balls in this mixture then in crumbled Corn Flakes, soda cracker crumbs or dried bread crumbs. Put balls in greased oven dish. Cook for 30 minutes in 350° oven.



Source: What’s Cooking, Trinity United Church, 1954

It was gone before I could take a picture.
Savory Succotash
I didn’t have high hopes for this, especially considering it was made by my Greek friend. (She was the one who melted hard Werthers candies last year to make Peanut Butter Marshmallow Squares. She also made Impossible Pie look like an iron.) Anyway, score one for Greece because Savory Succotash was voted "Best Tasting Dish" of the night! The prize is a Chevette. 8-tracks not included.

1 1-pound can (2 cups) French-style green beans, drained
1 1-pound can (2 cups) whole kernel corn, drained
½ cup mayonnaise
½ cup shredded sharp process American cheese
½ cup chopped green pepper
½ cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 cup soft breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
Combine first 7 ingredients. Place in a 10 x 6 x 1.5” baking dish. Combine crumbs and butter. Sprinkle over top. Bake in a moderate oven (350°) for 30 minutes or until crumbs are toasted.

Source: Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 1953

Grasshopper Pie
Most of the Italians seemed to like the refreshing minty taste of this pie and were relieved to hear it contained no grasshoppers. Be sure to use Kraft Marshmallow Crème like the recipe says or else bad things will happen to you in life!!!

24 cream-filled chocolate cookies, finely crushed
¼ cup margarine, melted
¼ cup milk
few drops peppermint extract
few drops green food colouring
1 jar Kraft Marshmallow Crème
2 cups heavy cream, whipped

Combine cookie crumbs and margarine. Press into 9” spring pan, reserving ½ cup of mixture for topping. Gradually add milk, extract and colouring to Kraft Marshmallow Crème, mixing until well blended. Fold in whipped cream. Pour into pan. Sprinkle with remaining crumb mixture. Freeze. Makes 8-10 servings. If desired, substitute ¼ cup green Crème de Menthe for milk. Omit peppermint extract and colouring. Be sure to use Kraft Marshmallow Crème – it’s the new jet-whipped kind made with real egg whites.

Source: Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 1953


Broken Glass Torte
This should’ve been named Torte of Broken Dreams, because it died before it even had a chance to live. As soon as the spring form pan sides were released, it spread out like a bad rash.

1 pkg. lemon gelatin
1 pkg. orange gelatin
1 pkg. lime gelatin
1 pkg. raspberry gelatin
1 ½ cups hot water only for each pkg.
1 envelope unflavoured gelatin
¼ cup cold water
1 cup hot pineapple juice
2 cups heavy cream, whipped
½ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
lady fingers or fingers of sponge angel cake

Dissolve each Jell-O separately in 1 ½ cups water. Chill ¾” thick in pans. Cut into cubes ½” thick. Soften plain gelatin in cold water. Dissolve in hot pineapple juice. Cool. Fold in whipped cream into which the sugar and vanilla have been added. Blend coloured gelatin cubes into the whipped cream mixture. Line large spring form with lady fingers or sponge cake. Add cream mixture. Chill. To serve, remove sides from spring form and top torte with plain whipped cream, or cover all with whipped cream. Then cover with coconut plain or tinted. Makes 12-16 servings. May use graham cracker crumbs on top and bottom.

Source: Coffee Club Cook Book, 1960

Lemon Soda Cracker Squares
These tasted as exciting as they look.

Prepare a lemon pie filling as per instructions on the package, but using ½ cup less water than is called for in the recipe. Set aside. Combine the following ingredients into crumbs:
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup butter or margarine
1 cup flour
1 cup coconut, desiccated
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon soda
10 soda crackers, crushed
Press half of the crumbs into a greased 8x8 square pan. Cover with lemon pie filling and then the remaining crumbs. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until lightly browned.

Source: Trenton Memorial Cook Book, The Women's Auxiliary of the Canadian Armed Forces, 1969

There was another dish called Green Rice Bake which everyone thought was pretty good. But I was too drunk distracted and forgot to take a picture. It was tasty, though. Here’s the recipe:

2 slightly beaten eggs
2 cups milk
¾ cup packaged pre-cooked rice (Minute Rice)
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, cooked and drained
1 cup shredded sharp process American cheese
½ teaspoon garlic salt
Combine eggs and milk. Add remaining ingredients. Pour into 10x6x1.5” baking dish. Bake in slow oven (325) 35-40 minutes or til firm.

Source: Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 1953

The Verdict
All in all, most of the Italians agreed that this year's menu was the tastiest Caker Christmas ever. (A couple of people looked disturbed, but they were first-time guests.) As for the sodium-induced edema, well, let’s just say there were a lot of unzipped boots walking out the door at the end of the night.


From my caker house to yours, all the best for the holiday season. And may your Carousel o’ Cards always be full.

Brian

Friday, 21 December 2012

Rum balls


There’s no point denying it – cakers love booze. Especially around the holiday season. In fact, a recent industry report revealed the top five most popular caker alcohols. They are (in order of preference):

5) Blue Curacao
4) Kahlua
3) Bailey’s Irish Cream (but only the homemade kind because the real stuff is way too expensive)
2) Any wine that’s pink

And at number one…(drumroll please)

1) Rum


I have a hunch that cakers love rum because it’s so versatile. We douse our fruitcakes with it, add it to our eggnog, and even dip our balls in it. Speaking of, these rum balls are pretty easy to make (I suppose that goes without saying), but just make sure you wet your hands with either water or (hiccup) more rum before rolling them in your hands. Otherwise, the sprinkles won’t stick.

I’m off to get a perm for tomorrow night’s Vintage Caker Christmas party. And then I have to clean. Seriously. You don’t know how stressful it is cleaning your house for Italians. They check the light bulbs for dust.

Come back on Monday to see all the party highs, lows, and well, probably more lows.

2 squares unsweetened chocolate
1 can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
2 tablespoons rum
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
Dissolve chocolate and milk in double boiler. Stir in rum. Add crumbs. Mix well. Let sit overnight. Roll into balls and dip in chocolate sprinkles.


Source: What’s Cooking at St. Joseph

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Carousel o' Cards

There's nothing more heartwarming than opening your mailbox to find it filled with holiday cards and letters from family and friends. Everyone seems so happy. You never see so many exclamation marks at any other time of the year!!!

Rather than stick your cards in a basket – or worse, the recycling bin – why not make a Carousel o’ Cards to display that paper love in all its glittery glory? I can’t think of a better way to tell the world, “Look at all the people who think I’m worth a stamp!!!”

You just need a large can, some yarn and – what else? – gold spray paint. Oh, and cards. But you’ve got those coming in by the truckload these days.

Instructions

Take a large can (I used a tomato juice can), cut out the bottom and top lid and then spray paint the crap out of it.


Loop yarn all the way around it.


Et voila! Simply slip your card through a yarn string.

Hopefully, you fill yours up. In my case, I don't show the other side.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Green Bean Casserole


It goes without saying that there’s a pretty big date looming at the end of this week. No, I’m not talking about that Mayan end-of-the-world thing. I’m talking about my annual Caker Christmas party on December 22. (I set it the day after Armageddon just in case.)

This year, I’m doing a “vintage” theme – all the recipes have to come from caker cookbooks from the '50s and '60s. Suffice to say, I think me and the Italians are in for some incredible indigestion gastronomical delights. I’ll post all the deets the following day – provided my sodium-induced edema doesn't get in the way. (I swear, I can't even get my knitted slippers on by the end of the night.)

In the meantime, help yourself to this staple of caker holiday dinners. Green Bean Casserole is so popular, even cakers who don’t know they’re cakers (which, truthfully, is most cakers) make this dish. If you want to ramp up the festivitiness of it, use the French-cut beans with pimento pieces. That way, pieces of green and red shine through the grey sludge like tiny bits of hope. And given the state of the world sometimes, I think we need every scrap of hope we can find.

2 one-pound cans cut green beans, drained (see note)
¼ cup milk
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 ½ cups French Fried onions

Heat oven to 350°. Combine beans, milk, soup, pepper and ¾ of French Fried onions. Pour into 1 ½ quart casserole. Bake, uncovered for 30 minutes. Top with remaining onions and bake 5 minutes longer.

Note: Most people use the French cut beans.

Source: Let's Break Bread Together, The United Churches in Canada

Friday, 14 December 2012

Reader Recipe: Double Double Slice


Recently, I was accosted approached by a stranger at an event. Usually it’s Security, but this time, it was a Caker Cooking reader named Jenny. She told me that she recently dreamt (dreamed?) up a caker recipe (by that I mean she literally had a dream) and wanted to share it with me.

In Jenny’s words:

"Inspired (subconsciously) by Confetti Slice, the peanut-butter-and-coloured-marshmallow bake sale classic, it went by 'café au lait slice' in my dream. But the name didn’t sufficiently capture its cloying sweetness. Hence, Double Double Slice."

I made it (with some minor variations) and can confirm that Jenny’s Double Double Slice is double double delicious. It's like the sophisticated cousin of my controversial Peanut Butter Marshmallow Squares. In fact, I think Double Double Slice falls under a new caker category: nouveau caker cooking. (I'll have to trademark that before Sandra Lee catches wind.)

Since I always associate Peanut Butter Marshmallow Squares with the holidays, I'm more than happy to welcome Jenny’s Double Double Slice to my aluminium platter of Christmas baking.

Thanks, Jenny! Sweet dreams.

3 tablespoons butter
¾ cup dulce de leche or sweetened-condensed-milk toffee (See Note 1)
2 ½ cups white chocolate chips
3 teaspoons instant espresso powder (See Note 2)
4 cups white mini marshmallows

Melt butter, dulce de leche or toffee, and white chocolate chips in a double boiler. Stir in espresso powder until combined. If the mixture is too thick, add 1 tbsp cream. Let cool a bit. Stir in marshmallows, and press mixture into a greased 8-inch glass baking pan. Refrigerate until firm, and cut into squares. Preferably small squares. A little goes a long way.

Note 1: Jenny said if I couldn't find dulche de leche, I could boil a can of Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk in a pan of water for three hours to turn it into toffee. Three hours??? The Good Lord wants me to enjoy life and not stand beside a stove. So I used dulche de leche-flavoured Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk. It took three seconds to open.

Note 2: I have a hunch most cakers won't know what espresso powder is (pronounced "ex-pres-soh"). To be safe,  I substituted it with instant coffee granules. Decaffeinated, of course. You don't want hyper cakers on your hands during the holidays. Trust me.

Source: I Dream of Jenny

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Macaroni Christmas Tree


There really is no shortage of caker crafts you can make this holiday season. Alls you need is gold spray paint, access to a dollar store and about four minutes.

This macaroni Christmas tree is a cinch to make – and just look at the results! You'd probably pay close to twenty dollars for this in the Sears catalogue.

The instructions said to use white glue, but I had a problem getting the macaroni to stick. Plus I kept eating it. (The glue, I mean, not the macaroni.) So I brought out the ol’ glue gun and managed to burn off a few layers of my fingertips. Be careful! Especially when gluing on those little elbow buggers. I was cussing a blue streak. But all the pain was worth it. Now if only I could type without having to use the end of a pencil.



Instructions:

Buy an assortment of different shaped pasta. 


Glue in a pattern around a Styrofoam cone. Then spray paint the crap out of it. I set mine in a terra cot pot that I also spray painted the crap out of.

Source: Make Your Own Accessories For Every Room, 1971
Special thanks to Georgia for loaning me her book!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Cocktail Meatballs

Folks, there’s no cause for alarm. That bouquet of Charlie perfume and shrimp cocktail sauce you’ve been smelling lately isn’t the sign of a stroke. It simply means that Caker Christmas Cocktail Party Season (or CCCPS) is in full swing.

Caker holiday parties are great because you get to hover around a nut-crusted cheese ball, snoop through people’s medicine cabinets and play Connect Four. And there's always someone in reindeer antlers who has too many rum and Cokes and refuses to come out of the bathroom.

Guaranteed you'll find these tangy meatballs during CCCPS. The ingredients may not look too appetizing (grape jelly and chili sauce?) but a bit of magic happens when the two are combined. Don’t forget the toothpicks. You don’t want to burn your fingers fishing the meatballs out of the pot.

Prepare small one-bite size meatballs and fry until well done. (See note 1.) This can be done ahead and then stored in the refrigerator.

Sauce: Make up just before serving. Combine equal amounts of Heinz Chili Sauce and Welch’s Grape Jelly to desired volume. (See note 2.)

Warm until the mixture is glassy. Add meatballs to sauce and warm thoroughly. (See note 3.) Serve in a chafing dish on cocktail sticks. An excellent party appetizer.

Note 1: Or do what I did and buy the pre-cooked frozen ones and heat them in the sauce.
Note 2: I made about 30 meatballs and used 2 cups each of chili sauce and jelly.
Note 3: I let mine simmer for about a half hour. You can also do them in a slower cooker.

Source: Mixed Blessings Book of Recipes, Salem United Church

(Not exactly a title that inspires confidence, is it?)

Friday, 7 December 2012

Reader Recipe: Ritz Christmas Treats

My month-long Caker Christmas extravaganza continues with a reader recipe from the East Coast, sent in by CBC Canada Reads producer, Erin Balser.

In Erin’s own words:

"The Annapolis Valley is rich with community cookbooks, all with their delightful own twists on seafood fare and caker goodness. They were made for everything – church fundraisers, school fundraisers, for the Legion, for the holidays, etc. This particular one was made by the Royal Bank Branch members in Weymouth and Digby and my mother, being a Royal Bank member herself, was eager to support this cross-community initiative and gave all her children a copy of this book for Christmas in 2007. So, at least on the East Coast, the community cookbook is alive and well.

I have never made Ritz Christmas Treats. They scare me. But I felt if anyone I knew was up for the task, it was Brian Francis."

Erin, I’m deeply honoured. And I’m also deeply happy to report that Ritz Christmas Treats are deliciously addictive. It should be renamed Ritz Christmas Crack. I had to call 911 because I couldn’t stop eating these. (The operator wasn’t amused, but she was probably a non-caker.) In any case, I hope Ritz Christmas Treats become as much a part of your holiday traditions as awkward relative hugging and clove-studded orange candle holder thingies.

Thanks, Erin! Be sure to check out the CBC Canada Reads 2013 competition. My book, Fruit, was in the 2009 edition and I have to say – there’s nothing more surreal than listening to your book being discussed on national radio while you’re on your way to No Frills.

2 boxes Ritz Crackers
2 cups dry roasted peanuts
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup margarine
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla

Put peanuts and crackers in roasting pan. In a saucepan, boil sugar, margarine and corn syrup. Boil for 5 minutes. Add vanilla and soda. Pour over crackers and peanuts. Bake at 250 stirring every 15 minutes. (See note.) Remove from oven and put on wax paper. Break apart.

Source: Royal Recipes, Caring For Our Community, Royal Bank Digby & Weymouth Branches, Nova Scotia











Note: It doesn't say how long to cook it. I left it in for about 45 minutes.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Ye Olde Christmas Milk Carton Lantern


Before there was electricity, cakers from ancient times had to rely on candle-lit lanterns at night to safely guide them to the outhouse. Sometimes, they carried shotguns on account of the coyotes. (Pronounced kai-yoats in those days.) Here’s a Christmas craft that pays homage to the bravery of our toiletless ancestors while adding some modern day dollar store jeuge.

Ye Olde Christmas Milk Carton Lanterns are easy to make and add that touch of personal pizazz to your holiday table or toilet tank. Just make sure you wash the milk carton really good before you use it. Otherwise, people might assume that smell is coming from you. I’ve lost a few friends that way.





Instructions:

Take a milk carton and cut out rectangles on all four sides.











Spray paint the crap out of it.











Cut one of those grey foam thingies to fit the bottom of the carton, then cut out a circle in the centre and insert your votive. Set it into the bottom of the carton and add your greenery, bells, etc.

Note: Never light this. 
If you do, I guarantee you’ll have the worst Christmas ever.