Wee Cook Wednesday: Thanksgiving Treats to Try!

Looking for something a little different to spice up this holiday feast?  This weekend I’m going to be creating three gingerbread houses and umpteen gingerbread men for Boosters, so I thought I should get a couple of posts up while I have time…  So “Wee Cook Wednesday” is up a bit early, to allow you to go out and get your feast underway!

Below I’ve included two recipes: one for a fabulous “Spinach Pie” that calls for phyllo dough (the trick is use LOTS of butter, and don’t leave it uncovered too long) and a full pound of feta cheese.  The other is for a spicy cranberry chutney that I found in the AnnArbor.com, courtesy of Food Editor Teresa Shaw. For those seeking a little more adventure than the lump of crimson that comes out of the cranberry can to go with their turkey.

The first recipe, from the “South Arbor Family Recipes” book, is a wonderful Greek dish that had both my husband and kids gobbling with impressive speed! 

Spinach Pie

1 C butter
1 onion, finely chopped
1 bunch green onions, sliced fine
1 lb feta cheese, crumbled
1 lb cottage or ricotta cheese
2 pkg frozen spinach, thawed and water squeezed out
1/2 C frina (or cream of rice cereal). (I used 3 Tbls of corn starch mixed in with the eggs instead)
6 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb phyllo pastry

Butter bottom and sides of a 12×18 jelly roll pan (I used a 9×13 casserole and it worked fine). Set aside. Pour 1/4 C butter in frying pan, add onions and saute until golden. In large bowl combine cheeses, spinach, farina; stir in onion mixture. Add eggs gradually, stirring constantly. Season with salt and pepper, set aside.

Roll out phyllo dough and cover with plastic wrap and damp tea towel. Put remaining melted butter in small dish and get out a pastry brush. Place 1-2 sheets of phyllo in jelly roll pan, allowing ends to hang over side. Brush with butter, then add additional layers of phyllo, brushing each layer with more melted butter. Pour spinach mixture over all, and fold ends of phyllo back over cheese mixture. Brush the ends with butter.

Place remaining pastry sheets over cheese mixture, continuing to brush with butter over each layer. Score top sheets for ease of slicing after baking. Bake 325 for 45 minutes. Serves 12-16. (Or 6-8 if they’re REALLY hungry).

Cranberry Chutney (courtesy of Teresa Shaw of AnnArbor.com).

2 Granny Smith apples, cored and chopped
2-1/4 C cranberries, picked through and rinsed (1 bag)
1 C brown sugar
1/2 C apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground clobes
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 C raisins (optional — I threw in a handful of crushed walnuts instead at the end of the cooking)

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer about 25 minutes, until cranberries have begun to cook down and chutney has thickened. Place in airtight container and serve within a week — or freeze or can to keep it longer.

Picture credit:  I found this lovely shot at “Eclectic Epicurian.com”

Wee Cook Wednesday: Apple Bread Pudding@ Scribbit

apple dumpling

Did you go apple picking this weekend? We did … I’m up to my neck in Granny Smiths. Much to my family’s delight! (They suck up the peels like the ticket-taker at Chuck-E-Cheese. Delightful.)

Today head on over to Scribbit, where Michelle has a delectable recipe for … drum roll, please …

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding!

Need I say more? No? I thought not. Enjoy!

Wee Cook Wednesday: Chicken Cordon Bleu (and Lemon Tarts)

chicken cordon bleuThe other day Michelle at Scribbit posted the mouth-watering yet super-easy recipe for chicken cordon bleu that won her husband’s heart.

For me, it was lemon tarts. Into little tart shells you spoon a mixture of  lemon curd (1 jar — available at most grocery stores) whipped with about 2 cups of creme fraiche (in the dairy section, or you can make your own). Add a dab of REAL whipped cream and top with a pinch of lemon zest or a twist of lemon peel . . . and chill.

The first time I offered Craig one of these, he promptly ate three, then asked me out on our first date. Yeah, they’re that good!

Wee Cook Wednesday: No-Peel Boiled Eggs!

eggToday I found a link on Michael Hyatt’s blog to Michael Ferris’ post about how to have boiled eggs without having to shell them by hand.   In  nutshell:

1. Add a teaspoon of baking soda to the water as they are boiling for 12 minutes.
2. Submerge cooked eggs in in ice water.
3. Tap off each end, and BLOW from the pointy end to the fat end.

Sarah and I are going to try this one this afternoon!

Wee Cook Wednesday: Apple Dumplings and Crock Pot Applesauce

apple dumplingIt’s getting to be that time of year again … apple season!   In honor of National Apple Dumpling Day (Thursday, September 17) I’d like to post my tried-and-true recipe for these tasty seasonal treats.

To make Heidi’s Apple Dumplings, you will need…

8 fresh-picked apples (peeled, cored, and cut in quarters)

3 C flour
1-1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbls baking powder
1C plus 2Tbls shortening
3/4 C milk

2 C sugar
2 C water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 C butter
a dozen little cinnamon candies (optional)

First, make the dumplings. Cut together flour, salt, bp, shortening together to course crumbs; add milk to make dough. Roll thin like pie crust (handling as little as possible to keep it tender). Place hand-sized (fingers spread) circle of dough in one hand, cupped slightly. Put apple quarters on top, then draw up dough around apples, squeezing with both hands so that dough covers entire apple. Place each “doughed” apple in baking dish, making sure there is space (at least an inch) between each apple. Continue with remaining apples.

Next, bring to boil the sugar, water, cinnamon, nutmeg, and butter. Stirring constantly, continue to boil, adding cinnamon candies (if used) in the last minute. Pour hot syrup over apples, making sure some of the juice gets on each one. Bake 375 for 35-40 minutes, until golden.

To make vanilla milk, take a pint of milk and add 2 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tsp sugar. Pour over warm dumplings. Yum!

Looking for something a little simpler? Try this recipe I found today at AnnArbor.com, by Teresa Shaw, for her “Slow Cooker Applesauce”!  You will need …

4-5 pounds apples (McIntosh, Winesap)
1/2 C water
2 Tbs cinnamon
1/2 C sugar (I would use brown)
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice.

Wash, core, peel, and chop the apples into large chunks. Dump apples and other ingredients in the slow cooker (crock pot) and set on low heat. Cook 8 hours or until apples are soft and cooked down. Allow to cool slightly, then use a potato masher or immersion blender (yeah, right, got one of those RIGHT HERE) until the applesauce is the desired consistency. Add a little water if it’s too thick.

Editor’s comment: I like mine sprinkled with Lorna Dune crumbles.

For a recipe even simpler than that, try Deacon Tom’s recipe for Crockpot Applesauce. Peel & core ~ 8 sweet apples (e.g. Fiji). Cut into small pcs/segments. Put in crockpot. Add ~ 1/2 cups of water & of sugar + 1 TBSP of cinnamon. Mix & heat low ~ 7 hours. Use a masher to mash the cooked applesauce to a consistency you like. Refrigerate after cooling. Easy and most everyone likes it a lot. Enjoy…. I’ll be awaiting whatever dessert you care to send me 🙂

Wee Cook Wednesday: Pastie Time!

pastiesToday I found this link for a wonderful lunchtime or quick supper (if made ahead and frozen) treat at Aussie Therese’s blog. Pasties are a popular dish here in Michigan … a fair amount of work, but worth it!

I was especially intrigued by this recipe, which calls for puff pastry instead of pie dough (which can be a hassle). I’m “translating” the recipe into American measurements here:

Ingredients:

1kg carrots (about 2 pounds, or 10-12 carrots)
1 kg potatoes (6-8 medium).
500 grams onions (3 medium onions).
Curry.
Salt
Pepper
18 sheets frozen puff pastry.
(For the carnivores in the crowd, you can also add 1 pound sausage or ground beef, cooked and drained well. Also, Michigan pasties often have small cubes of rutabegga — 1 medium sized root should do it. You’ll need more puff pastry if you add these things…)

Great for lunch boxes!

Wee Cook Wednesday: What’s for Breakfast, Mom?

With September now upon us, most of us have already begun the “back-to-school” routine. Three out of four of us are not exactly morning people (Christopher’s energy seems to go into hyperdrive at 6:30 am), so finding a routine that works and sticking with it means the difference between arriving on time, wide-eyed and bushy tailed . . . or not.

Today I came across this article that offers lots of great ideas for no muss, no fuss breakfasts that even picky eaters will devour with enthusiasm.  I keep a supply of hard-boiled eggs (Sarah’s favorite) and Dinosaur oatmeal (Christopher’s) on hand, and on chilly mornings whip up a batch of cheese quesadillas to get the old furnace going. (Toast a couple of cheddar-filled tortillas on an olive-oil drizzled skillet for a minute on each side.)

While they’re munching, I put the finishing touches on lunch. More often than not, I have them eat hot lunch — especially during the winter months. But when they want or need to bring something from home, I try to keep it simple and appealing.

*  Pop a carton of pre-frozen yoghurt and a snack-sized bag of cut-up fruit, along with a small bag of pretzels.

*  Make an extra quesadilla, cut in quarters and wrapped in foil, into the lunch bag. A few carrot sticks add crunch.

*  Roll turkey and cream cheese around a dill pickle spear, stick through with toothpick. Raisins or prunes (which my kids love … go figure).

*  Ants in a log (cream cheese-filled celery dotted with raisins), and a small bag of Cheese-Its.

*  Hummus and pita chips (only once in a while … those chips are VERY high fat!)

*  “Mouse salad”: small scoop of cottage cheese holding a pear half in place. Raisins for eyes, almond slices for ears, licorice string for tail and whiskers. Include a small handful of crackers for scooping.

Especially in classrooms where peanut products are verboten, these simple lunches can be quickly consumed, and are appealing enough not to wind up in the dumpster.