Sunday 31 May 2020

Chicken Mousse

Well, we made it. The final recipe of my Caker Cooking 2020 revival. And what a revival it’s been! We’d laid a few eggs, munched on some wieners and chowed down on damp muffins. It’s been a lot of work – and a lot of saturated fat. But it’s all been worth it. Sorta.

I promised I’d save the worst caker recipe for last and, as the Eurythmics asked, “Would I lie to you?” Most of us know there was a dark chapter in the ‘60s and ‘70s when people thought mixing Jell-O with bad things was tasty. Like olives. Or salmon. Or tomatoes. I don’t know if people were downing too much Contact C or inhaling Aqua Nehair spray fumes, but clearly, something went wrong. Very wrong. 

This week, I give you the jiggly horror that is Chicken Mousse, taken from 1963’s Joys of Jell-O. A warning: there is very little joy here. Only misery. This recipe comes from the bowels of hell. 

Check out these ingredients. It reads like Jason Voorhee’s grocery list: 

1 package Lemon Jell-O
½ tsp salt
1 ¾ cups boiling chicken broth
Dash of cayenne
2 tbsp vinegar
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 cup diced cooked chicken
1 cup finely diced celery
1 tbsp chopped pimento

Dissolve Jell-O and salt in boiling broth. Add cayenne and vinegar. Chill until very thick. Whip the cream, then fold cream and mayonnaise into gelatin, blending well. Fold in remaining ingredients. Pour into 1-quart mold or individual molds. Chill until firm. Makes 4 servings.

Just look at this picture! Have you ever seen more dissimilar things standing next to one another? I considered submitting it to Awkward Family Photos.

I’ve never been more disappointed to see whipped cream in my life. It even looks like one of those hurricane radar images on the news. Gird your loins. There’s a Category 7 caker catastrophe headed this way LOL!

Everyone had an aunt who served these unholy Jell-O salads at family functions. Now that I think about it, it might have been a clever ploy to ensure no family ever came to visit you again. Looks like Great Aunt Millicent was more strategic than I thought.

I tossed out all my old Jell-O molds when I wrapped up this blog back in 2014. And given that the ol’ Val Vill is currently closed, I had to go with the best thing I could find – mini loaf pans. Granted, they’re not as pretty as a mold. Then again, I’m making Chicken Mousse, so…

The problem was that the portions ended up looking like bricks. So I’ve renamed this recipe The Devil’s Bricks. I think it’s more appropriate. 

But how did Chicken Mousse actually taste? Well, you might be surprised to hear but…not bad! The saltiness of the broth was the perfect marriage to the citrusy sweetness of the Jell-O and the chicken added – oh, who am I kidding? It was HORRIBLE!!! I literally shuddered every time I took a bite. And if you know anything about me – and this blog – that says a lot.

The main issue is that there’s just too much going on. You get the sweet Jell-O, then the tang of the mayo, then the creaminess of the whipped cream. And then there’s the celery…and the chicken. Every time I bit down, some new horror awaited. 

Worst of all, I think I invoked an evil spirit by making this. The other day, a bunch of black flies swarmed my kitchen window (more than usual, I mean), my Ronco Inside the Eggshell Egg Scrambler went on the fritz and every time I eat, I get fiery pains in my stomach (more than usual, I mean). Call me paranoid but look at this picture and tell me an exorcism isn’t needed!

Before I get on the phone with Father O’Connor, I want to thank you for joining me on this revival. I hope you enjoyed some of these new caker recipes. And should the world find itself in need of another casserole in the days ahead, I’m only a can opener away.

Until then, continue to stay home, stay safe and never, ever make Chicken Mousse. 

Sunday 24 May 2020

Tang Dessert

When I revived Caker Cooking last month, I promised dieticians across the country it would only be for a limited time. And I’m a caker of my word. With things starting to get back to normal (Kinda? Sorta? Maybeish?), it seems like my work here is done. So, to wrap up this 2020 edition, I’ve saved the best – and the worst – caker recipes for last. Get ready for a bumpy – or is that burpy? – final two weeks.

Like most children who needed dentures by the age of 10, I grew up drinking Tang for breakfast, alongside a bowl of Strawberry Shortcake cereal swimming in Nestle Quik chocolate milk. I still remember the day when I first learned that orange juice actually came from an orange, not an envelope. It was more shocking than when Mother told me about the Easter Bunny. A.K.A. the worst 18th birthday ever.

This recipe for Tang Dessert, taken from the Knox United Church cookbook in Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan, got me all juiced up. The last time I made something with Tang was Tang Pie, which was damn delicious. Would Tang Dessert prove to be a worthy successor?

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
½ cup melted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 small packages orange or lemon JELL-O
2/3 cup white sugar
2 cups Tang juice
15 oz chilled evaporated milk (see note)

For the crust, mix everything together except for ½ cup crumbs. Press into a 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes. For the filling, combine JELL-O, sugar and Tang. Heat until dissolved. Chill until partially set. Whip milk (must be chilled) and fold in. Spread on cooled crust. Sprinkle remaining crumbs on top. Chill until set

I couldn’t find Tang at the grocery store at first. Turns out it’s been downsized, like a Tide Pod. I know we live in super-concentrated times, but I missed tearing open the package, dipping my finger in and licking the powder off. On the plus side, I wasn’t walking around with Orange Finger Syndrome for the remainder of the week.

Can we all take a moment to appreciate the glory that is the graham cracker crust? It's often  overlooked, but it’s been the foundation of desserts since time immemorial. Personally, I think the graham cracker crust is the best part of any dessert. In fact, I’d just as soon eat a pan of graham cracker crust. Hold on – I think I just invented something: Graham Cracker Crust Squares. Someone call Dragon’s Den!

This recipe gave me a chance to whip out my Eaton Viking electric beater. I got it a few months ago at Val Vill for only five bucks. True, it emits a musty odour when it’s turned on, but I’m a middle-aged homosexual. I’ve smelled mustier things in my day LOL!

So, what was the verdict for Tang Dessert? No point in sugar-coating anything. It was freaking delicious! It’s easily one of the best desserts I’ve ever featured on this blog. In terms of taste, it was light, foamy and squishy with a subtle orange flavour. AND HOW ABOUT THAT GRAHAM CRACKER CRUST?!? Just make sure you chill the evaporated milk so it whips up nice and light.

You need to make Tang Dessert. Like, immediately. You can thank me later. I’ll accept boxes of Cap’n Crunch as tokens of appreciation. 

This can only mean we’re left with the WORST caker recipe. What horrors await? Tune in next week for the final, gruesome reveal. It’s more disturbing than hair on a mole.

While we’re on the topic of Orange Finger Syndrome...

Until next week, stay home, stay safe and make Tang Dessert. Really.

Note: I bought two regular-sized cans.15 ounces is just a bit over one can, so I think you could likely get away with just one. 

Sunday 17 May 2020

Hamburg Casserole

Let’s face it – cakers aren’t exactly poets when it comes to naming our food. Over the years, I’ve featured recipes for Pink Thing, White Stuff and Corn Ring on this blog. Names like that don’t exactly whet the appetite. And asking, "Now, who wants to taste my Pink Thing?" at the end of a meal may lead to your dinner guests scrambling for the door. I'm speaking from experience.

So it’s sometimes easy for me to pass on recipes on account of their uninspired names. But some recipes deserve a second look. Hamburg Casserole, featured in Cooking Favorites of Cobourg, didn’t exactly jump off the page at first glance. Then I spotted one ingredient that took this recipe from yawn to yowzers! Do you see it, too?

1 pound hamburg
1 large onion
1 medium tin spaghetti
1 small tin peas 
¼ pound sharp cheese, cubed (see note)
½ cup tomato juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 small tin mushrooms

Brown hamburg, saute onion and mushrooms. Layer in above order in casserole. Cover and bake at 325 for 1 hour.

IT’S THE TIN OF SPAGHETTI!!! Pasta from a can was one of my favourite lunches as a kid. Specifically, Alpha-Getti (which helped build my literacy skills) and Chef Boyardee Beefaroni which I usually ate with a side of white bread smeared with margarine. Because carbs. 

Given that I’m married to an Italian, I’m forbidden from ever bringing canned pasta into the house. That and Little Caesar’s pizza. I mean, not even the crazy bread. Hashtag what the hell? But this recipe gave me a legit reason to go out and buy a can.

One ingredient I wasn’t looking forward to? Tomato juice. Honestly, it’s the worst. I think I suffered too many traumatic banquet dinners growing up. Tomato juice was usually served with the first course (followed by an iceberg lettuce salad with French dressing in a small wooden bowl) and always came room temperature in those little juice glasses.The only redeeming thing about tomato juice is the can, which you can use to make a Carousel o' Cards at Christmas time. 

In spite of its lacklustre name, I have to say that Hamburg Casserole was one of the prettier caker dishes I’ve made. And colourful, too! You have your brown, your green, your beige, your orange and even a splash of red. That’s four more colours than most caker food! I think I over-pead it, though. The recipe called for a small can, and I got a standard sized one. 

In terms of the taste, I’d have to say – pretty good. It was cheesy, hearty, pea-y and the canned spaghetti added a touch of wormy fun. Even the Italian went back for seconds, although I’ll get in trouble for saying that. Hamburg Casserole, your name might be meek but your taste is mighty!

I’ll be back next week with another tasty caker recipe. Until then, stay home, stay safe and never judge a casserole by its name. 

Note: A ¼ pound of cheese is about a cup.

Sunday 10 May 2020

The "Best" Easiest Square

What's up with these people talking about all the “down” time they have during self-isolation? I don’t know about you, but I barely have enough hours in the day. Between panically tearing through the No Frills aisles like I’m on one of those grocery game shows to finding a face mask that doesn’t make my ears look like bat wings, I have ZERO "down" time. I can barely find time to binge-watch Cold Case Files episodes from 1999 on Netflix.

In many ways, caker food is perfect at a time like this. It’s cheap, fast and the preservatives mean it will stay fresh, unrefrigerated, for at least a year. Another bonus of caker food? It calls for as few ingredients as possible. In fact, the fewer the ingredients, the more accomplished we cakers feel. 

“Barb, these squares are delicious!”
“Thanks, Marg. They only have three ingredients!”
Three ingredients?!? You’re a regular Julie Childs!”

This week’s recipe for The “Best” Easiest Square comes from the Canadian Bible Society’s Celebration Cookbook, probably the biggest coil-bound cookbook in my collection. I haven’t seen rings this big since I took that hula-hoop exercise class at the senior’s centre. 

The Celebration Cookbook has given me a number of caker gems over the years, including Eggnog Dessert (if you like the look of giant blisters, you’re in luck) and one of my all-time favourite recipes, Resurrection Rolls

1 box Ritz Crackers, rolled into crumbs
1 can Eagle Brand milk
1 package Shor Chippits

Mix well, spread into 9 x 13 pan and bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes. (Don’t overbake or it will be dry.) May be served plain or with a butter icing.

I try to include a cooking tip every now and then so this blog seems educational. You can roll your Ritz Crackers in the cracker bag, but before you do, make sure you cut a tiny hole in the bag first. Unless you want your kitchen to look like it was hit by a cracker blizzard. I’m speaking from experience. 

Sweetened condensed milk, also known as “caker glue,” is a popular ingredient found in many caker recipes, including fudge, Hello Dolly squares and any ball-shaped item on a Christmas platter. It’s also good straight out of the can on a Friday night after you’ve had a couple of glasses of Spumante Bambino. 

I had some doubts when I pressed this into the pan. Mainly that that it was going to stick. But the recipe didn’t say anything about greasing the pan. Sure enough, it stuck. Not terribly, mind you. But enough that The “Best” Easiest Square came out looking more like The “Best” Easiest Trapezium.

I ended up putting them in the fridge before cutting the rest and that helped. I had also cooked them for exactly 15 minutes, so maybe going for the full 20 would’ve been better. If you make them, consider laying down some parchment paper.

These are really sticky. I wouldn’t serve them at a piano recital. Or at a bridal shower because your guests will end up walking around with napkin-tipped finger pads and that’s never a good look.

But who cares about stickiness and shape when you’ve got something that tastes as good as these? Hello?!? They’ve got Skor and Ritz Crackers! Can you think of a better sweet 'n salty combo? They’re also pretty rich, so if you value your teeth, I’d skip on the suggested butter icing.

Speaking of Skor, does anyone remember that commercial from the '80s where the brunette lady ate a Skor bar, started talking like an ABBA band member and turned blonde? If only hair colour was that easy to change in real life. It would’ve saved me from that unfortunate Sun-In chapter in my life.

We’ll see you back here next week with another limited ingredient recipe. Until then, stay home, stay safe and enjoy all that “down” time eating caker food.

Sunday 3 May 2020

Beanie-Weenie Bake

Every year since the dawn of time (or so it seems), I host an annual Caker Christmas party. I force invite Italians to make – and eat – caker dishes. At the end of the night, I ask them to vote for the night’s best-tasting dish. For them, it’s like asking to choose the least offensive smell at a flatulence convention.

At my 2019 party, the Italians voted Beanie-Weenie Bake as the best dish. So I’m excited to share this dish with you all. This recipe comes from 1969’s Beta Sigma Phi Casseroles, a mutha of a caker cookbook. There are 392 pages chock full of casserole recipes in categories like Chicken Spaghetti Casseroles, Ground Beef-Noodle Casseroles and, gulp, Egg Casseroles. 

¼ cup brown sugar
½ tsp. dry mustard
1 tbsp. flour
Evaporated milk
1 tbsp. vinegar
1 tbsp. molasses
1 can baked beans
1 package wieners, cut in forths

Mix brown sugar, mustard and flour in medium sized bowl. Add milk to vinegar to make 2/3 cup liquid, stirring to keep blended. Stir milk mixture into dry ingredients; add molasses, stirring to mix well. Add beans. Pour into 1 ½ quart casserole; arrange franks on top. Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes. Serves 4. 

The recipe for Beanie-Weenie Bake (not to be confused with the less popular Teeny-Weenie Bake) seemed straightforward enough, although the inclusion of evaporated milk puzzled me. I’ve always been puzzled by evaporated milk. Every time I open a can, I’m surprised it’s not empty.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to wieners: pork or beef. I prefer the beef ones because they’re not made with snouts. I suppose you could also use veggie wieners. A friend once told me that the texture and colour of veggie wieners remind her of pencil erasers. I can’t get that visual out of my head every time I eat one. I wish I could “erase” her comment. LOLZ!

I tried to arrange the wieners standing up. The attention you pay to little details can mean a world of difference to your guests. “I see Brian took the time to make his wieners erect,” they might think as you bring the dish to the table. “That shows he really cares about me.”  

Do I even need to report that Beanie-Weenie Bake is delicious? It’s a bit sweet, a bit salty and the wieners give a satisfying mouthfeel. The Italians were right! It’s a winner, baby! This dish had me wishing I was wearing a cowboy hat, playing my harmonica and pitching a tent on Brokeback Mountain.

If you want to see the complete menu from my Caker Christmas 2019 party, including what the Italians voted worst-tasting dish  – and my epic cheeseball – check out my blog post!

Speaking of Brokeback Mountain, here’s one of the unfortunate side effects of being a male homosexual: The compulsion to turn everything into a dance remix. I give you Exhibit A: 

We’ll see you next week with another home-on-the-range caker recipe. In the meantime, stay home, stay safe and always keep your wieners close at hand.