There’s a mighty big ball about to drop in Times Square and Mother and I already have our party hats on. That can only mean one thing. Well, two things.
First, I'll need to make sure Mother's hat elastic isn’t too tight. (Last year’s celebration became known as the “blue face” incident.) And secondly, it’s time for my best and worst caker recipes of 2013!
Which dish walks away the champ? And which dish slithers away in shame like a lump of saturated fat on a hot linoleum floor?
Find out by clicking here or on the tab in the upper right hand corner.
They were calling for an ice storm the night of my Caker Christmas party, my annual shindig where I invite my Italian in-laws and friends to make caker dishes. Either my guests don’t watch The Weather Network or they love caker food too much. It was a full house. In fact, many felt this was one of the tastiest Caker Christmases ever. Which really isn’t saying much.
Anyways, I’m having a hard time typing on account of my sodium-swollen fingers, so please excuse any typpos.
Come journey through a landscape of beige – otherwise known as the Caker Christmas spread.
Imperial Cheese Cookies
This recipe is one of the most searched recipes on my blog. These savoury cookies didn’t win over any Italian fans, though. I think Italians struggle with the idea of eating cookies as appetizers. Thankfully, I don't share that struggle.
The recipe is here. I added an extra cup of Rice Krispies on the advice of a Caker Cooking reader.
I was told by an Italian guest that this wasn’t a caker dish. “What’s not caker about it?" I asked. “There are three ingredients.” This dip was delicious, so I have suspicions that some Italians consider any food that tastes good “non-caker.”
1 cup light mayonnaise
1 cup Parmesan cheese
8-ounce can artichokes (I used a 14-ounce can and it was fine)
Drain artichokes and cut up. Mix mayonnaise and Parmesan together with artichokes and put in a quiche dish. Bake at 350° for 35-45 minutes.
Source: Our Family Favourites, Stirling Primary/Junior School
Many Italians were surprised by how much they liked this, but I wasn’t. Hello?!? It has creamed corn. Which, in some caker circles, is also known as “crack corn.” This had a nice, subtle sweetness.
2 eggs, beaten
1 ¼ cup milk
2 – 14-oz cans creamed corn
2 ¼ cup crushed soda crackers
½ cup celery, finely diced
¼ cup onion, finely diced
¾ cup grated cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
pinch black pepper
2 tablespoons melted butter
½ tsp paprika, divided
To begin, preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 2-quart baking dish or shallow casserole dish, and set it aside. In a mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients, reserving half of the paprika. Pour all of it into the baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining paprika over the top. Bake for about 1 hour, or until golden on top, and the centre is firm, no longer jiggly.
Source: Something called “Pinterest.”
Chinese Food Casserole
Shout out to China! This dish, made by yours truly, was voted “Worst Tasting Dish” of the night. Whatever. We cakers have thick skin. BTW – this called for three cans of soup. I used only two. Even I have my limits.
1 pound ground beef
1 cup Minute Rice, cooked
1 can Chinese bean sprouts (I couldn’t find a can, so I used fresh and poured boiling water over them, which what the package said to do.)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can cream of celery soup
½ cup diced celery
½ cup diced onion
½ can Chinese noodles (I’m assuming this meant the deep-fried Chow Mein kind. I used more than a half-can. Which you can likely tell from the picture.)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Prepare rice and set aside. Brown meat and set aside. Fry celery and onion. Mix all ingredients together except noodles. Place in large casserole and top with noodles. Bake in oven at 350° for 1 hour.
Source: Casserole Cook Book, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian
Hash Brown Casserole
My Greek friend made this and won the coveted title of the night’s “Best Tasting Dish” – for the second year in a row. I think the Italians are starting to feel threatened. Heck, I’m starting to feel threatened. I’m not inviting her next year.
1 cup onion, diced
1/4 lb. (1 stick) butter, thinly sliced
1 (8 oz.) container sour cream or plain yogurt (optional)
1 (8 oz.) pkg. Kraft Cracker Barrel sharp cheese
1 can Cream of Chicken soup
1 (2 lb.) bag frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed
1/2 to 1 cup potato chips or corn flakes
Stir together well the diced onion, sour cream or yogurt, grated cheese, thinly sliced butter, and Cream of Chicken soup. Add the hash browns and mix well. Spread this mixture evenly in a casserole dish and top with crushed chips or corn flakes. Bake at 350° 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Source: Something called the “internet.”
Shout out to Mexico! If you’ve ever wondered what the secret ingredient is in a Mexican meatloaf, it’s nacho chips. Oh, and brown sugar. Sorry the picture is a little blurry. I was a little
2 pounds lean ground beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 crushed garlic cloves
Fine dry bread crumbs
Finely ground nacho chips
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
2 large eggs
½ cup chunky salsa
8 ounces cheddar cheese, cut into ¼” cubes
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
¼ cup chili sauce
Combine beef, onion, garlic, bread crumbs, nacho chips, chili powder and jalapeno peppers. Add eggs and salsa. Stir. Add cheese. Mix well. Press evenly into an ungreased 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan. Combine brown sugar, chili sauce and mustard in a small bowl. Mix well. Spread over beef mixture. Bake uncovered at 350° for about 90 minutes until firm. Drain any excess drippings from pan. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Source: Celebration Cooking, The Canadian Bible Society
Spanish Rice Casserole
Shout out to Spain! This recipe called for canned tomatoes. The woman who made it used homemade tomato sauce instead (hence the colour.) When her mother saw this, she said, “You’re wasting good sauce in that?” Everyone's a critic.
1 pound hamburger
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped green pepper
½ cup uncooked rice
1 20-ounce tin tomatoes
Saute onion in greased frying pan. Add hamburger and brown. Add uncooked rice and tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer one hour, stirring occasionally. May be made ahead of time. Put in casserole dish and reheat at 350.
Source: The New Y Cook Book
Shout out to Italy! The chicken coop was squawking over this one. “How can this be caker? There’s tortellini in it!” I pointed out the tortellini was covered with cheddar cheese. That seemed to shut everyone up.
¼ cup butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
¼ cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
½ teaspoon each dried thyme, basil and oregano
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 pound tortellini, fresh or frozen
2 cups grated cheese – marble or cheddar
½ cup Parmesan cheese
Melt butter in large saucepan; add garlic and onion. Cook until tender. Sprinkle with flour and cook 3-4 minutes – do not brown. Whisk in milk and bring to a boil. Add tomatoes, herbs, salt and pepper. Cook 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook tortellini in boiling salted water for 13 minutes. Drain well. Combine tortellini mixture with sauce. Add cheese and transfer to a 3 quart baking dish. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes until hot and brown.
Source: Celebration Cookbook, The Canadian Bible Society
No-Bake Raspberry Cheesecake Pots
These were delicious! Only downside? You have to go out and buy the jars. I say forget that and just use your leftover soup cans. Make sure you wash them out first. Cheesecake + grey bits of mushrooms = bad holiday season.
1 ½ 8-oz pkg cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
8 graham crackers, ground (about 1 cup)
12 ounces fresh raspberries
½ cup raspberry jam
1 8-oz glass jars
Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the heavy cream. Increase the speed to high and beat until thick and stiff, about 2 minutes. Beat in lemon juice. Spoon graham cracker crumbs into the jars. Top with cheesecake batter, raspberries and jam, alternating red layers with cheesecake batter. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.
Source: Woman’s Day
This party guest said she got the recipe when she bought her slow cooker. I don’t have the recipe, but it looks like you bake a cake in a slow cooker (Why would anyone want to bake a cake as slowly as possible?), toss some marshmallows and graham crackers on top and drizzle with melted chocolate. I had s’more for breakfast.
Cool Whip Melba
You make this and then use the container as the mold. If there’s a better example of caker resourcefulness, I’d like to see it. Many people found this “tastefully refreshing.”
2 ½ cups Cool Whip
1 ½ cups finely chopped fresh peaches (about 5 medium). Or use one can (29 oz.) sliced peaches, drained and finely chopped
½ cup sugar
3 tablespoons raspberry jam
1 empty 9-oz. Cool Whip container
Tint Cool Whip to desired peach shade with food colouring (approximately 3 drops red; 7 drops yellow.) Thoroughly drain peaches, saving 3 tablespoons juice. Combine peaches, juice and sugar, stir into Cool Whip until well blended. Spoon ¼ of the peach mixture into buttered Cool Whip container; drop 1 tablespoon jam, by half teaspoonfuls, over mixture. Repeat twice. Top with remaining peach mixture. Freeze until firm – at least 8 hours or overnight. Unmold. Garnish with peach slices and additional raspberry jam, if desired.
Source: magazine clipping
And that’s it!
Another Caker Christmas has come and gone. (Although, for most, it keeps repeating the day after.) Come back next Monday, December 29 when I post my best – and worst – recipes of 2013.
From my garishly-decorated house to yours, all the best for the holiday season!
Still hungry? Check out Caker Christmas from 2012 and 2011!
When it comes to the holiday season, all I can say is: God bless the caker wife.
There she is on Christmas Eve, running around in her white pumps and apron, topping up eggnogs, dumping out ashtrays, keeping the shrimp ring replenished and looking pleasantly surprised when she unwraps her husband’s gift – a pink bottle of Avon bubble bath. Again.
The last thing she wants to think about is what to feed her family on Christmas morning. Thankfully, caker wives look out for caker wives. This delicious casserole is prepared the night before, so come morning, she’ll throw it down like no one’s business in her velour housecoat. If only her family thanked her.
Next time you pass a caker wife, do me a favour and high five her.
Holy crap! My annual Caker Christmas party is tomorrow night! I gotta get to the No Frills and buy some ground beef. There’s supposed to be an ice storm, so who knows if any Italians will show up? I'll post all the saturated fat details on Monday, December 23rd.
16 slices white bread, crusts removed
Slices/pieces of bacon and ham (see note)
Slices of sharp cheddar cheese
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
¼ cup minced onion
¼ cup green pepper, finely chopped
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
3 cups whole milk or cream
Dash red pepper (Tabasco sauce)
¼ pound butter
Special K or crushed Corn Flakes
Put 8 slices in the bottom of a 9x13 buttered, glass baking dish. Add pieces to cover dish entirely. Cover bread with slices/pieces of ham and bacon. Lay slices of cheddar cheese on top of bacon and ham. Cover with slices of bread to make it like a sandwich.
In bowl, beat eggs, salt and pepper. To the egg mixture, add dry mustard, onion, green pepper, Worcestershire sauce, milk or cream and Tabasco. Pour over sandwiches. Cover and let stand in the fridge overnight.
In the morning, melt ¼ pound butter and pour over the top. Cover with Special K or crushed Corn Flakes. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour at 350°. Serve with fresh fruit and hot cinnamon buns.
Note: Make sure the bacon is cooked.
Source: A Commemorative Cookbook….with a “Pinch of History,” Whitby Psychiatric Hospital
Behold! I bring you great tidings of caker joy!
Earlier in the week, I posted my Edible Cranberry Candle. It came out a little flaccid compared to Candle Salad. Problem was that a candle made of JELL-O just didn’t have the density to stand upright.
Then I got thinking.
My mom used to pour JELL-O into a can of pineapple rings and serve it with ham. I featured the pineapple ring recipe on Caker Cooking a few years back. A light bulb went off in my head. (Usually, when this happens, there’s only a brief flickering before the light goes dark.)
I took a can of pineapple rings and a packet of JELL-O and created a candle that’s solid enough to stand on its own. I should've been an architect.
If you want to make one, drain the juice from a can of pineapple rings, mix JELL-O with a cup of boiling water, pour into the can and let it set in the fridge. Just don’t forget to slip in a birthday candle to light it.
Just goes to show – all of life's problems really are solved in your own backyard.
No caker holiday table setting is complete without a Christmas cracker lovingly laid across your paper plate. But have you seen how goldern expensive crackers are? And for what – some explosives and a plastic animal pendant? Not worth it in my books, folks. Not worth it at all.
Why not make your own with toilet paper rolls? Granted, they don’t explode, but just get everyone to yell “POP!” when they yank the crackers apart. Best of all, you can customize your crackers. It’s a way of showing people what you really think about them. Here’s how you make them:
Take a toilet paper roll or paper towel roll (cut it in half)
Select things you want to put inside. For this one, I included some Canadian Tire money, a few pieces of dry pasta, some lip balm that I found, a rubber band, a googly eye and an egg.
Stuff everything inside the tube, then wrap it up in some wrapping paper. Tie both ends with a ribbon. Decorate it as you wish. It’s that easy!
Need inspiration? Here are some things that any caker would love to find in his or her Christmas cracker.
- Packet of Taco Bell sauce (mild)
- Clip-on earrings
- Stick of Freedent gum
- Baby aspirin
- One of those plastic bread bag closure thingies (I’m forever losing mine. LOL!)
- Piece of dental floss
- A chocolate from a box of Pot of Gold (just not the orange one – no one likes those)
- Latch hook tool
- Rain bonnet
How many times have you smelt a candle and thought, “That smells so good, I want to eat it?” Folks, don’t. Wax is awfully hard to scrape off teeth. I’m speaking from experience.
I was sent this recipe for edible “candles” by reader Keri and wanted to try it. I haven’t had much success with JELL-O before. (See Ribbon Salad.) But, like Charlie Brown running at the football, I thought it was worth one last kick.
When I unmolded the candles, they collapsed like Mushroom Fluff. Then I had an idea. I mixed JELL-O with gelatin (a reader once recommended that to firm up JELL-O), poured it into a soup can, added in some cranberries and put it in the fridge, pretty certain it would work.
The candle held its shape better, but was Tower of Pisa-ish. I’m guessing it’s a mass/density thing. Anyways, if you have a suggestion about how to make this work, feel free to leave a comment. And remember: keep open flames away from party guests’ hair. Nothing kills the holiday spirit quicker than burnt hair smell. I'm speaking from experience.
1 1-lb. can of Ocean Spray Whole Cranberry Sauce
1 3-oz. pkg. red, yellow, or orange fruit-flavored gelatin
1 cup boiling water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup HELLMANN’s Real Mayonnaise
1 apple or orange, peeled or diced
3/4 cup chopped walnuts
Heat cranberry sauce, strain, set berries aside. Dissolve gelatin in hot juice and water. Add salt and lemon juice.
Chill until thickened enough to mound slightly when dropped from a spoon.
Beat in real mayonnaise with rotary beater till light and fluffy. Fold in cranberries, fruit and nuts.
Divide mixture evenly into eight 6-oz. fruit juice cans. Chill 4 hours or longer. Unmold. Garnish with real mayonnaise to taste.
To flame: Cut thin birthday candle in half to shorten. Insert into tops of cranberry candles. Light.
Here's the original advert.
I mean, c'mon. There has to be wax in that.
It seems like every nationality has a beverage they’re most associated with. Italians have wine. British people have tea. The folks from IKEA have glögg. And cakers? Why, we cherish a thick, yellow drink made from unfertilized eggs.
I don’t know why cakers go cuckoo for eggnog. Is it because eggnog is only available at Christmas? Is it the cinnamon dusting on top? Or is it because it gives us another excuse to put rum into something?
Here’s a recipe that solidifies eggnog. So you can eat it instead of drinking it. Well, maybe not eat. More like slap it around in your mouth. I know it looks like a giant blister but when has visual appeal ever stopped cakers before? Just stick a poinsettia in it or spray with that fake snow stuff and you’ll have everyone slapping back seconds.
P.S. Yes, this looks a lot like my Maple Fluff. I'm opening a bake shop that sells only greyish-beige wobbly things.
1 litre carton of eggnog
2 envelopes of unflavoured gelatine, softened in cold water
In a heavy saucepan, heat the eggnog until almost boiling. Add the softened gelatine and whisk slowly to thoroughly mix and dissolve gelatine. Pour into a mold and place in refrigerator to set. Serve plain or with a garnish of fruit fruit, cream or shaved chocolate.
Source: Celebration Cookbook, Canadian Bible Society
Cakers love Reader’s Digest. It’s like the casserole of magazines. Take some health tips, add a dash of fire prevention, whisk in a few jokes, sprinkle an Anne Murray interview on top, eh voila – dinner is served! Simply put, it’s the biggest magazine in the smallest amount of time. And if that doesn’t sum up the caker way of life, I don’t know what does.
Here’s another bonus – you can make Christmas trees out of old issues! Just note that one magazine only makes a half tree. So either put your tree in front of a wall or use two magazines to make a whole one. Or keep turning your half tree around as your guests move around the room.
Special thanks to Caker Cooking reader Stephanie for telling me about this!
Here's how you make one:
Take a Reader’s Digest, preferably with a photo of a firefighter carrying an elderly person on the cover.
Fold the upper corner down to make a big triangle. Then fold the lower corner up. Do this over and over until your fingers hurt real bad. Tear off the covers.
And there you have it!
Leave it as-is or spray paint the crap out of it.
Aren’t Pot of Gold chocolates stressful? There you are on Christmas morning and someone passes you the box and you have to examine the legend, figure out what you want, and then find the matching chocolate. All while your family is screaming, “PASS THE BOX ALREADY!” It’s like a relay race for the unathletic and easily-confused.
My sister would avoid the pressure by bypassing the legend and taking whatever chocolate caught her eye. Then, if she didn’t like it, she’d put the half-eaten chocolate back into the box before moving on to the next one. She'll try to deny this, but I’ve got the dental molds to prove it.
Speaking of chocolates, these homemade bonbons will no doubt take their place on caker Christmas platters around the world. They taste just like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. And talk about easy! Why, these balls practically make themselves. Try making them with dry roasted peanuts for an extra punch of flavour. I guarantee you won’t find a single half-eaten ball.
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup icing sugar
1 cup finely chopped peanuts
3-4 squares semi-sweet chocolate
2-3 teaspoons butter
Mix first 3 ingredients together. Roll into small balls. Refrigerate 1 hour. Melt chocolate and butter in double boiler. Dip peanut butter balls in chocolate and refrigerate.
Source: A Commemorative Cookbook…with a “Pinch of History,” Whitby Psychiatric Hospital
During Bazaar-o-Rama, I bought the Cut-Up Cake Party Book which shows you how to make different shaped cakes like spaceships and turkeys. There was one for a Christmas tree and I thought, “Looks easy enough.”
I should’ve known better. I often sit in front of puzzles and cry. So even though this cake looks like a tree, the tinted coconut and icing is covering up a lot of Franken-weirdness underneath.
Now, I’m about to say two things that terrify me:
1) Make your cake from scratch. The reason being is that I used a cake mix and the cake was too light. It was hard cutting the pieces. So you need a dense cake.
2) Make the icing from scratch. One container of Duncan Hines frosting will NOT give you the coverage you need to hide your screw-ups. I made the Seven Minute Frosting the book suggested. It rocked. Even if it took, like, seven minutes.
While I’d like to take credit for the decorating, I can’t. My niece did that. She's obviously way more talented than her uncle.
My fellow cakers, if you decide to make this, remain calm. Reserve one day for figuring out how to bake a cake from scratch, one day for making the frosting and one day for decorating. Christmas may be over by the time you finish, but that's the risk you take.
Here’s what you need:
1 baked 9-inch square cake
5 ½ cups Seven Minute Frosting, tinted green (recipe follows)
1 ½ cups flaked coconut
½ cup chocolate coated coconut
Green food colouring
So do this with the cake:
Then do this:
Tint the coconut by adding a ½ teaspoon of milk and few drops of colouring and toss it with a fork.
For the trunk, melt one square of Baker’s chocolate. Add the coconut and mix well. Spread on a baking sheet and separate coconut with a fork. Chill until set.
Seven Minute Frosting
3 egg whites, unbeaten
2 ¼ cups sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ cup water
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
Combine egg whites, sugar, salt, water and corn syrup in top of two-quart double boiler. Beat about 1 minute, or until thoroughly mixed. Then place over boiling water and beat constantly with rotary beater (or at high speed of electric mixer) seven minutes, or until frosting will stand in stiff peaks. (Stir frosting up from bottom and sides of pan occasionally with rubber scraper, spatula or spoon.)
Remove from boiling water. For a very smooth and satiny frosting, pour at once into a large bowl for final beating. Then add vanilla and beat for one minute or until thick enough to spread.
Put the frosting on the cake, the coconut and the decorations. Then mop the sweat from your brow.
Source: Baker's Cut-Up Cake Party Book
(Look how everyone is having a good time. Obviously, none of them have made a cut-up cake.)
It twas the night before Christmas,
And all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring
Not even a…walnut?!?
Oh, ha ha! I meant a mouse.
Or did I?
My month-long Caker Christmas celebrations continue with this squeaklingly fun Christmas craft. Alls you need are walnuts, five minutes and a vision. Oh, and googly eyes.
Here’s how you make them:
1) Buy some walnuts. Make sure they’re still in the shell. Otherwise, your mice will look weird.
2) Take something sharp and split open the walnuts.
3) Scrape out the nuts and reserve for your next batch of Church Windows. Or mix with vanilla ice cream, top with maple syrup and serve to a senior. They go bonkers for maple walnut ice cream.
4) Glue some googly eyes onto the shell, along with a pompom for a nose and two for the ears. Take a pipe cleaner and twist it around your finger. Then glue the tail to the back of the shell.
It’s that easy! If you really want to get creative, put some wires in the nose for whiskers. Or make a miniature Santa Claus hat. Or a smart little pantsuit. The sky’s the limit!
See you back here on Friday for a tree-tastic recipe.
Welcome to my month-long Caker Christmas Extravaganza! Throughout December, I'm posting weekly thricely. Wait. Does that make sense?
I couldn’t think of a more festive way to kick off the celebrations than with the stained glass majesty of Church Windows. Can’t you just hear the out-of-sync senior choir now? In fact, you couldn’t get any more festive unless you ate one while dancing to Grandma Got Run Over Reindeer in a pair of knitted slippers with a maraschino cherry stuck to your nose.
Word to the wise: when rolling these, it can get a little messy. Roll them up using a piece of waxed paper so your hands don’t get all choclity.
See you on Wednesday with a “nutty” holiday craft!
1 16 oz package semi sweet chocolate chips
3 cups coloured miniature marshmallows
¼ cup butter or margarine
½ cup pecans or walnuts (optional)
½ cup shredded coconut
Melt butter in saucepan over low heat. Add chocolate chips and melt. Cool. Stir in marshmallows and nuts. Divide in half and shape each half into a 6-inch roll. Roll each in coconut and wrap in waxed paper. Keep refrigerated until ready to use. Cut in 1/2" slices. Makes 24.
Source: Season’s Delights, presented by the Ladies of Parklawn Presbyterian Church
(Yep, that's a real construction paper cover with a piece of green ribbon holding everything together. It doesn't get more high tech than that.)