Sunday 26 April 2020

Miracle Whip Muffins

There was a point in time when muffins were considered health food. Then one of those journalism TV shows did an investigative report (likely Dateline) and everyone lost their minds when they found out that a bran muffin has 4,502 calories and 348 grams of fat. Thanks for bringing down the party, Stone Phillips.

Since then, muffins have been in the doghouse. At donut shops, people will even choose one of those cellophane-wrapped bagels with the two-inch wedge of orange cheese over a muffin. That’s how bad it is for muffins. But is it time for a muffin “miracle?”

This recipe for Miracle Whip Muffins hails from Wheatland Cooks Celebrate, a 1980 cookbook put out by the Wheatland U.C.W. 

¾ cups dates, cut small
2 level teaspoons baking soda
1 cup boiling water poured over the above. Let stand until cool. Combine 1 cup of Miracle Whip salad dressing and 1 cup white sugar. Add the date mixture and 2 cups flour, pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Bake 20 minutes at 375. Make about 1 ½ dozen.

Miracle Whip? Really? You sure you didn’t mean mayonnaise, I wondered? I mean, mayo used to be a trend in cakes. It reached its height in the ‘80s with a chocolate mayonnaise cake recipe that made the rounds. You can almost hear the conversations at caker dinner parties.

Mayonnaise?!? But that doesn’t make any sense, Barb. Have you been sniffing those incense sticks again?”

It’s just that MW has that tang, you know? And who wants to munch on a tangy muffin? But one thing I’ve learned in all my years is that you can doubt your friends, doubt your parents, even doubt politicians. But never doubt a U.C.W. recipe. 

They certainly looked and smelled okay, but it all comes down to the taste. And, as far as I was concerned, if these tasted good, it would be a miracle.

Friends, these muffins weren’t just good – they were delicious! The muffins were as damp as me watching a Ricky Martin video. 

They also had a rich, caramel-y taste. (Thanks, dates!) Just like a sticky toffee pudding. (Not that I’ve ever had a sticky toffee pudding). And not a hint of a tang in my muffin.

Cooks of Wheatland U.C.W., you have reclaimed the rightful throne of the muffin! The second wave is upon us! Cast aside your donuts, put down your bagels, and kneel before the power of the Lemon Cranberry, the Banana Nut and the almighty Morning Glory! A new muffin dawn is upon us! 

I’ll be back next week with another enchanting caker recipe. Until then, stay home, stay safe and eat your muffins while wearing yellow eyeshadow and dancing to this. 

Sunday 19 April 2020

Tortilla Pizza

With everyone self-isolating, many parents are dealing with kids at home 24/7. And parenting is a lot harder than when I was growing up in the '70s. The main difference being that, these days, parents are supposed to pay attention to their kids. True story: When I was eight, I got lost in the living room shag carpet for four days before my parents noticed I was missing.

What better opportunity to enjoy some wholesome family time making caker food? This week’s recipe for Tortilla Pizza comes from Our Family Favourites, published by The Stirling Primary/Junior School. I’m assuming the recipe was submitted by a child. (I’m really, really hoping so, anyway.)

1 whole wheat tortilla
Grated cheese
Chili powder

Spread ketchup on tortilla. Sprinkle with grated cheese. Sprinkle with chili powder. Microwave for about one minute or till cheese is melted. Roll up or cut into pizza slices. 

This recipe may seem simple enough, but as someone who worked at Pizza Hut, I can tell you that making pizza is never as easy as it seems. It’s important to layer things in the correct order. Otherwise, a blanket of cheese will come sliding off and burn your chin. 

This pizza follows in the time-honoured caker tradition of pizza making. We turn anything into pizzas. English Muffins. Hamburger buns. Or, if we’re entertaining and have access to a toaster oven, Triscuits. 

I imagine many Italians reading this are biting their fists about the ketchup-as-sauce thing. And I don’t blame you. Everyone knows Ragu makes for a better pizza base. But in this recipe's defence, it does call for a whole wheat tortilla. I respect that. Because health.

I don’t own a microwave, so I baked the pizza for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Honestly, it was the one saving grace. The idea of microwaving this and eating hot ketchup was a little troublesome, even for me. 

In terms of how it tasted, it’s not as bad as you think. The sauce was a little sweet. Then again, it’s ketchup, not sauce. But it had a nice chew. And you couldn't ask for a thinner crust!

I’m not sure what the chili powder added, but I’ve always been suspicious of that spice. I think it’s red-coloured dust. And I would’ve preferred a canned mushroom or two. But I'm one of those bon vivant types. 

I hope you find time to make this pizza whether you have kids or not. And remember: Teaching kids about other cultures is, like, really important. From my family to yours, buon appetito!

We’ll see you next week for another wholesome recipe. Until then, stay safe, stay home and eat caker food. 

Sunday 12 April 2020

Scalloped Potatoes

When it comes to times of stress and hardship, few things provide comfort like the combination of cheese and potatoes. How else can you explain Wendy's Bacon Cheese Baked Potato, O'Grady's Au Gratin potato chips and the caker classic Schwartzie's Hash Browns, a.k.a Funeral Potatoes?

This week’s recipe for Scalloped Potatoes comes from the 1976 “New Y Cook Book” from Owen Sound, Ontario. The recipe had an asterisk beside it which means it was a reprint from the 1930 and 1956 editions. In other words, you’re looking at another tried-and-true cheese n' tater caker classic!

Peel and slice enough potatoes for a 1 ½ to 2-quart casserole. Parboil for 5 minutes. Drain and place in casserole. Add a little chopped onion, if desired. Add the following:
1 can cream of chicken soup
½ to ¾ cup of Cheez Whiz
Enough milk to make about 2 cups liquid
When this is all combined, add to potatoes in casserole. Dot with butter and bake at 350 degrees. 

I look for any excuse to buy Cheez Whiz. It’s perfect on celery sticks, Ritz crackers and toast. I also use it as lip moisturizer in the winter. In fact, Cheez Whiz is one of the four caker food groups, along with Cream of Anything soup, Saltines and shredded coconut. 

The recipe was vague about the number of potatoes to use so I had to guess. Suffice to say, I bought too many. I ended up using about four and turned the rest into batteries

When I was growing up, my mom used to make scalloped potatoes but not that often. I think it was all the slicing. She was more the “boil-then-mash-the-hell-out-of-it” kind of gal.

The recipe also calls for Cream of Chicken soup, a variety that has always mystified me. First off, who knew that chickens produce cream? And secondly, what part of a chicken does the cream come from? On second thought, never mind. I don't need to know.

I cooked the scalloped potatoes uncovered for about 45 minutes, just until everything started to get nice and brown around the edges. 

When I served these to my Italian husband, he said, “I’m used to B├ęchamel sauce and nutmeg in my scalloped potatoes.” Honestly, the Roman attitude alone is enough to make me climb the walls!!! So imagine how sweet my victory tasted when Signor Nutmeg went back for seconds.

Seriously, these scalloped potatoes were fricking delicious. They were cheesy, creamy, salty, chickeny and kept my belly full for almost an entire hour. I’d make them again in a heartbeat. If I needed comfort. Or Cheez Whiz. In other words, I'd eat these every day.

Shout to the YM-YWCA of Owen Sound! Thank you for your good work – and your good food! I’ll be back next week for more culinary magic. Until then, stay home, stay safe and eat caker food.

Sunday 5 April 2020

JELL-O Pudding Eggs

Tough times call for good eating. And with everything going on in the world right now, who couldn’t use some comfort food? So, after shutting down this blog six years ago, I’ve decided to resurrect Caker Cooking for a limited time.

This decision doesn't come lightly. And it very well may mean the end of my marriage, especially since my Italian husband felt like he had long moved past the dark chapter of his life that was this blog.

But these are extraordinary times. And we all must do our part to make the world a bit brighter. And saltier. So every week, I’ll post a brand-new caker recipe from my vast collection of coil-bound church and community cookbooks until things get back to normal. Or so I've promised.

Hey! Who's that hopping down the bunny trail? Why, it's Peter Cottontail, of course, carrying a basket full of . . . JELL-O Pudding Eggs?!? What the heck? Is Peter smoking his carrots instead of eating them? Don't worry, kids. The JELL-O Pudding Eggs are only for the caker kids. The rest of you will still get the chocolate foil kind. And none of you will get those eggs with the nasty white crap inside. You know the kind I mean. Those should be banned.

I found this recipe in a Kraft What’s Cooking magazine dating all the way back to 1994. So if you’re one of those “Gen Z” people, you’ll consider this a historical recipe. And yes, we had ovens back then. Only we had to heat them with coal and twigs. Luckily, you don’t need an oven for these eggs. In true caker fashion, they’re no-bake!

1 package JELL-O instant pudding
1/3 cup boiling water
1/3 cup Parkay Margarine (see note)
3 cups sifted icing sugar
6 squares each Baker’s white and semi-sweet chocolate

Stir pudding, margarine and water together until smooth. Add icing sugar, a cup at a time until it forms a fall. Form into 1 1/2” egg shapes. Refrigerate until firm. Partially melt chocolate in separate bowls over hot water until 2/3 melted. Remove from heat and continue stirring until melted and smooth. Dip eggs into chocolate and decorate. Makes 24 eggs. 

No comments about what this looks like, please.

When I was growing up, the best Easter eggs were the Laura Secord Easter Cream kind. I mean, there was so much sugar packed into one egg, I’d be bouncing off the walls Good Friday, Saturday and Easter Sunday. Even the crinkled paper strips they came packaged in could be used for a crimped hair wig.

I put a pudding egg next to a cherry tomato so you can see what 1 1/2" looks like. The cherry tomato is on the right. 

After I dunked the eggs in chocolate, I put them on a rack to chill, but they got stuck to the rack on account of the hardened chocolate. There was a lot of swearing in my kitchen as I tried to work them free. The bottoms are a hot mess. 

Decorating these eggs reminded me of when I used to go to the Big V and get my name inscribed on an Allan Easter egg by one of the cashiers on egg duty. That took talent. And God forbid you got a kid named Constantine.

I think I did a very artistic job decorating my eggs. Ms. Secord, watch your back LOL!

Let your creativity run wild! Decorate your JELL-O Pudding Eggs with sprinkles, sequins, reinforcements for 3-hole punch paper, bits of grass, bird seed and those hard, silver balls that break your teeth. (Not that you'll have any teeth left after eating one of these.) Also, these eggs are pretty small. So unless your name is Pat, y'aren't fitting your name. Sorry, Constantine. 

These eggs were sweeter than the Laura Secord variety, if you can believe it. They also had the texture of Play-Do, but were a lot tastier. 

WARNING: Do not hide these eggs around the house. Trust me, you don’t want to discover brown lumps behind the sofa in a couple of months, especially if you’ve forgotten that you made these eggs in the first place. It could lead to a lot of family tensions, more so if you don’t have a pet. 

I hope you all have a happy holiday weekend. Stay home, stay safe and we’ll see you next week with another delicious caker recipe. 

*Note: I can’t get with margarine. It’s soft plastic. So I used butter.