Squished Potatoes

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Hold on to your hats! This is not a desserts! It is a rare occasion that I post something that is not sweet, but in my defense my Mom made them.

I have seen photos of potatoes like these everywhere, Pinterest, Food Blogs, magazines, etc.  They looked delicious and easy, and in order for me to cook something it has to be easy or I don’t want it.  Weird, as I wold spend an entire day in the kitchen baking something…

The ‘new’ potatoes are starting to arrive on the market, you know the little wee ones with tones of dirt still on them.  My Mom, who is a big of a potato freak, gets very excited when they first arrive.  I was invited to my parents for dinner last week and when she said we were having little new potatoes I told her about this idea.  Now don’t get me wrong, I do love a good potato, but boiled potatoes are just boring!  Much to my surprise Mom loved the idea and we made a batch for dinner.  She was much less thrilled when I announced I would be taking pictures for a post, haha.  It slows things down and I make her stop and wait till i get the right picture.

I never read any of the recipes, just looked at the pictures, so we made this up as we went along.  I called them Smashed Potatoes.

Smashed Potatoes

very small potatoes, preferably new
toppings of your choice! We used bacon and Cheese

1. Wash your potatoes ensuring all dirt is removed

2. Boil potatoes until just cooked, don’t over cook

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3. Drain potatoes and place on a baking sheet

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4. With a potato masher, squish each potato to desired thickness

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5. Top with toppings of your choice.  The possibilities are endless! We used bacon and cheese.  You could use onions, BBQ sauces, spices, herbs, butters, different cheeses, WHAT EVER!

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6. Bake in oven or broil until cheese is melted, or your toppings are done.

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These were delicious!  It was like a cross between a potato skin and a loaded baked potato.  I can’t wait to make them again!

 

My Birthday Cake

I will start by saying, I LOVE MY BIRTHDAY!  I am like a 5-year-old when it comes to my birthday, I just love it.  What’s not to love, 1. I get cake, 2. I get to spend time with family and 3. I get to pick my favourite dinner, it’s a great day 🙂

As a baker I do a lot of cakes and I love doing them, but I refuse to do my own!  I couldn’t careless what kind it was, what it looked like, just as long as someone took the time to make me one, it means so much.  This year I decided on something a little different.  A while ago I saw a recipe on Pinterest for Popcorn Cake.  I’m sure your face just shriveled up and you thought ‘ewww… that’s gross’ as most people did when I told them that I was having Popcorn Cake for my 33rd Birthday.

Before you decide that you don’t like it just because of the name….give me a minute!  This is not an ordinary cake, this is something quite different.  Replace the ‘cake’ with popcorn and candy and the ‘icing’ with melted marshmallows and you come up with this delicious concoction….

Popcorn Cake

Adapted from  Cookies & Cups

2 bags of microwave popcorn, cooked to directions
Marshmallows***
Mini Eggs***
Pretzels***
Butter***

*** Mom does not measure, she adds until it ‘looks right’

1. Pop popcorn and allow to cool

2. Combine marshmallows and butter, melt in microwave or on stove

3. While marshmallows are melting prepare your bunt pan by liberally spraying it with cooking spray

4. Combine cool popcorn with mini eggs and pretzels

5. Pour melted marshmallows over popcorn mixture and stir

6. Pour into prepared bunt pan, cover with foil and allow to cool

This is when I arrive…all excited to see my ‘cake’.  It is still in the bunt pan….Fingers are crossed hoping the thing will come out in once piece!

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Ta-da!!!

Look at that!!!

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I will mention that Mom decided to make her famous Rice Crispy Squares with the left over marshmallows, ‘just in-case’

Company arrived and time to slice into it

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Getting a little nervous as it is looking like a horrid rice cake….

but I am optimistic!!

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Looks can be deciving…it was delicious!

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I loved this Popcorn cake!  It was different than anything I had ever had.  There were so many different textures, from the light popcorn to the hard mini eggs,  every bite was a whole new adventure.  The flavour was amazing…each bite was different.  It was perfectly balanced, not too sweet, not too salty.  When you bit down on a chunk of salt from the pretzels it brought your mouth to life and just seemed to accent all the flavours.  This was a very light dessert that doesn’t weigh you down and you wont feel guilty for eating it, which is good because it is addicting! The flavour possibilities are endless as you could add anything you like to the mixture.  I would recommend this and will be definitely be making it again! We were surprised that even the next day it was good, it didn’t go all soggy as we expected.

Though Mom’s Rice Crispy Squares are delicious, ‘the back up plan’ was not needed!

Shortbread ‘Bake Off’

Holiday season is the time for sharing and Peta of Peta Eats is sharing a dozen cookies, some classics and some of her own, from all over the world with us.

I was thrilled to see that this months Daring Baker’s was Christmas baking!  I love Christmas baking!  It is the one time of the year where there is a ‘good excuse’ to make 15 different cookies and squares without feeling guilty!

Peta provided us with 12 different recipes to choose from, something for each of the “12 Days for Christmas’.  Our requirement was to pick at least one of the recipes provided and one of our own favourite Christmas treats.   Of the recipes provided I chose to make the Brown Butter Shortbread.  I chose the shortbread because I thought it would be fun to make a different version of shortbread then we are used to.  Around here it just isn’t Christmas without Mom’s Shortbread.  Regular readers are probably thinking, ‘your Mom’s shortbread?’ Yep! There are 2 things Mom bakes, her famous Rice Crispy Squares and her amazing Shortbread. She will generally make a Rice Crispy Square when ever the request is made, BUT will only make her shortbread at Christmas.  Thank goodness she makes A LOT, they freeze well and last well into the new year.

I will start with Mom’s Shortbread in this “Shortbread Bake Off”

Mom’s Christmas Shortbread

½ cup cornstarch
½ cup icing sugar
1 cup flour
¾ cup butter
red and green cherries

Directions:

1. Chop candied cherries into small pieces

2. In a large bowl measure your butter

3. Sift in remaining ingredients

4.  Blend until soft and smooth.  (Sidenote: you could use a spoon, Mom uses her hands to mush is all together.  She has never done it any other way and they are ALWAYS amazing, so why mess with perfection)

It will be crumbly, but keep going…

This is what you are looking for

5. Shape dough into small balls, place approximately 1 inch apart.

6. Press with a floured fork

7. Top with a chopped cherry

8. Bake at 300 F for 20-25 mins or until the edges start to turn golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.

Look at that! Amazing as always!

Mom’s shortbread are like none I have had before.  She refers to them as being ‘very short’.  They are not very sweet as you might assume from a cookie.  They have a much more dense texture then most shortbread I have tried, like the whipped ones and rolled varieties. Despite the ‘snap’ when you bite into it and the ‘dense’ texture they simply melt in your mouth, they are the best shortbread ever! Now, having said all that, I have yet to find someone who can duplicate this recipe and get it to taste like Mom’s.  It is not like she is withholding a secret ingredient because I watch her time and time again.  I have just come to accept that it is ‘Mom’s Love’ that makes them so darn good!

Now onto the Brown Butter Shortbread, they have a tough act to follow.  I had worked with brown butter once before, on another Daring Bakers Challenge, Baked Alaska.  The cake in the baked Alaska was a brown butter cake, it was delicious!  I was excited to try it in a shortbread.

Brown Butter Short Bread

1 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 teaspoons  pure vanilla bean paste
1-2/3 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
2 teaspoons table salt

Browning Butter

1.Cut the butter into small pieces and place in a saucepan over a low heat.

2. Melt the butter and cook until it starts to brown and gives off a warm, nutty aroma.   Stir from time to time to make sure the butter browns evenly. As it gets close to being browned enough it will foam up and you will see little brown bits in the foam.

3. Remove from the heat and pour into a heatproof jug or bowl.   Set aside to cool slightly and then refrigerate until it starts to set again but is not too firm. It should be the consistency of softened butter. Don’t strain out the little brown bits they taste great.

Cookies

1.Preheat the oven to moderate 300°F/ 150°C/gas mark 2.

2. Line 2 large baking sheets with silicon baking paper.

3. Add the sugar and vanilla to the browned butter and beat until very light and fluffy and the sugar is dissolved.

4. Add the flour and salt and mix for at least 2 – 4 minutes to form a soft dough.

It seemed to go all crumbly

So, Mom resorted to her method of mixing

Much better

5. Roll into small balls and press with a fork

6. Bake at 300 F, until edges start to brown.  Remove from the oven and leave the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for about 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

These shortbread were ok.  I shouldn’t say that, as a shortbread they were ok, as a cookie they were pretty good.  They did not share any of the same qualities that I would associate with a shortbread.  They were very sweet and a little ‘grainy’ as though the sugar did not fully dissolve.  It kind of reminded me of the texture of graham cracker crust.  Once I turned my thinking around and thought of them just as a cookie, they were pretty good.  We did decide that we may, one day, try the browned butter in Mom’s recipe and see how it turns out.  All and all a good recipe.  It was fun to compare the two,  I think we will be sticking to our original shortbread recipe though.

Thank you Peta for a great challenge!!

Cheese Squares

Do you have recipes that you make only at certain times of the year? Recipes that would be good at anytime of the year, but is only ever made around a certain time.  Our family has LOTS!  This one in particular, for some reason, is ONLY and I stress the only ever made for the Christmas Season.  I am talking about Cheese Squares!  Throw your diet out the window when your eating these little delights, but let me tell you, they are totally worth every delicious calorie!  I really don’t know why our family only makes them at Christmas.  There is nothing about a Cheese Square that says ‘Christmas’.  They are not red and green.  They don’t have the scent of pine or cinnamon.  Maybe, it’s because they are just that bad for you that your body only needs them once a year?  Who knows…

Usually around this time of year, early November, Mom starts preparing for the Holidays, getting some ‘pickies’ prepared for Christmas company.  This time of year there will always be several different homemade delights in the freezer just waiting for company to share them with!  These Cheese Squares have been a part of our Christmas for as long as I can remember.  They are very easy, only 3 ingredients, perhaps a little time-consuming and fiddley, but worth every second.  Today Mom and I whipped together 3 batches to have on hand, only took us a couple of hours.  I have no idea where this recipe came from.  It is a hand written one that has been in Mom’s recipe book for years!

Cheese Squares

1 lb Butter, room temperature
1 450 gr pkg Velveeta Cheese, room temperature
2 loaves thin Sandwich bread, must be the square sandwich bread

Directions:

1. Make sure you buy the right bread!  A normal loaf of bread will not work as well. You need the ‘thin Sandwich bread’ the square one

2. In stacks of 3, cut crusts off of the bread and set aside

3.  In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl with a hand-held beater, combine the butter and cheese. Mix on low to combine.  Raise speed to high and mix until light and fluffy, approx 2 mins

4. To assemble  – spread an even layer of cheese mixture between each layer of bread and on the top

5. Pick up the triple decker and spread an even layer around the sides

6. Once all sides (except the bottom) are covered, slice in three

Looks good doesn’t it? But we are not done yet!

7. Spread another even layer on all remaining sides (except bottom)

8. Place on a lined cookie sheet, single layer, not touching.  Cover and freeze over night

9. The next day ( or several hours later when they have frozen through) remove from tray and place in freezer bags

10.  These must be cooked from frozen, if not the cheese will all melt off.

11. Preheat oven 350 F

12. Place on lined cookie sheet and baked until the edges are golden

Delicious!  These are always a crowd pleaser.  Despite the ingredients, these are a very ‘light and airy’ appetizer.  The outside crisps up a little and the inside is soft and tender with melted buttery cheese.  It is like a gourmet finger sandwich grilled cheese.  It is very difficult to stop at just one!

Most prefer to eat them as they are and enjoy the mild cheesy goodness, but some like to dip in ketchup.  They also are quite nice for lunch with a nice bowl of home-made tomato soup.  I would definitely recommend giving these are try

Thanksgiving 2012

It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada, and the views are breathtaking! Here are a few of the scenes we were thankful to see before our delicious Thanksgiving feast!

Ok, now on to the good stuff! Mom and Dad were the hosts of Thanksgiving this year and it was wonderful as usual.  Unfortunately,  we were down in numbers this year, not everyone was able to attend, but we were thankful for the ones that could come.  It was a beautiful fall day, a little cool so we were not able to sit outside, (last year we were roasting out on the deck at thanksgiving).  Mom out did her self again!  She put a sit-down meal on for 18 people, it was delicious!

Scalloped potatoes, sweet glazed yams and carrots on the BBQ

Amazing pineapple glazed ham

Things got a little busy and I didn’t get pictures of everything but the rest of the meal included, green beans, corn, Mom’s homemade coleslaw, warm bread and the usual pickles etc.

The meal was fantastic! So delicious that everyone was so focused on their eating that they didn’t even notice I was taking the picture.  No family meal is complete with out a candid shot of everyone eating ( I try to get one every year, haha) This one is pretty mild, usually someone is stuffing their face with something lol.  Thank you Mom for another amazing family meal – you out did yourself yet again!

And then for dessert… I made Death by Chocolate and Pumpkin Pie – both were a huge hit

I have a Confession…

As I have mentioned in many posts, growing up there was not much baking in our house.  Mom can cook a fantastic meal but does not like to bake.   Mom’s Rice Crispy Squares are one of my/our family favourites and Mom made them quite a lot.

Your probably thinking, Really? Rice Crispy Squares? How simple and boring! Someone who loves to bake and create and one of her favourites is Rice Krispies  Squares.  If you are thinking that, then you have not had my Mom’s Rice Krispies Squares.  They are to die for!!!  I don’t know how she does it, but NO ONE’S stand even close to her’s.  She uses the same ingredients that the “original recipe” on the box calls for, but in different proportions.  They are so ooey and goooy and heavenly delicious.

I will always remember the commercial they had in the early 90’s advertising that Rice Krispies Squares were so simple, but so good.  The woman would throw flour all over herself then emerge from the kitchen looking exhausted!

Confession time…

I have made many complicated, delicate, time-consuming and detailed desserts, BUT, to save my life, I can not make a good Rice Krispies Square! Sounds stupid right? Anyone can make Rice Krispies Squares! WRONG!!! I can’t!  I have followed the recipe, I have done my own version, I have even watched and taken notes from Mom and they still turn out horrible!  They always taste horribly stale, dry, old, you name it, yuck!  Four ingredients and I mess it up.

Today I had a request for some Rice Krispies Squares to use up the Giant Campfire marshmallows we had.  I packed up all 4 ingredients (marshmallows, butter, vanilla and Rice Crispies) and headed to Mom’s and asked her to make them for me.  Each time I ask her she laughs at me, But, I seriously cant make them taste right.

Here is Mom’s Rice Krispies Squares

This is my favourite part.

Cleaning out the pot and wooden spoon and eating the warm gooey left overs!

Perfect every time!

Anyone else have something that is so easy that you just can’t master???

My Birthday Cake

I must start off by saying how much I love my birthday!!!  Ever since I was little I have loved my birthday, not just my birthday but anyones birthday.  It is your special day and I think you should embrace it!  I usually start announcing it in mid April.  I don’t do it looking for gifts or to be waited on, I just really like the day.

Usually it is me making the birthday cakes, but I REFUSE to make my own!!!  I would go cake-less before I would make my own cake.  Growing up I can remember Mom making ‘money cakes’.  Baked inside the cake was nickles, dimes and quarters (loonies and twoonies were not invented yet, Yes, im from Canada)  were wrapped in tin foil.  We would all be so excited to see who would get the most money in their piece.   Then we moved on to the Baskin Robins ice cream cakes.  My personal favourite was World Class, a blend of vanilla and chocolate, with fudge icing, OMG was it good!!!  The fudge icing was the kicker, I’m not even sure if they have them anymore.  From there I moved on to having brownies, not jut any brownies, Loretta’s home-made brownies with her homemade icing.  They are freaking phenomenal!!!  I have made them in the past and they are not anywhere as good as when she makes them.

People would always say, I’ll buy you a cake, it will look nicer!  I always say NO!  I don’t care what it looks like, the fact that someone takes the time to make me a cake is so much more important.  This year Mom was on cake duty.  I picked out the kind, Duncan Hines Spice Cake with my homemade icing and provided the recipe.  My only request was that it was a layer cake.  I much prefer the icing to cake ratio in a layer cake then in a slab cake.  Cake without icing or with not enough icing is just wrong.  I don’t think it is possible to put too much icing on a cake.

When I arrived to Mom and Dads for my Birthday Dinner ( a lovely ham dinner with roasted potatoes and green beans, my favourite!!!) the cake was sitting on the kitchen table, it was beautiful!  It was just what I asked for, a layer cake with lots of icing.  I loved it!!  Mom did an awesome job!  I think the first thing she said, after Happy Birthday, was ‘my god, I’m not a baker! That was a lot of work, you should have seen the mess I was in’.  I just laughed because it is so relaxing for me, I love to bake.  Mom is more the “cooker”, she can make anything and it tastes good.  There was only 3 meals in my entire life that she made that I did not enjoy.

After eating my delicious birthday dinner it was time for cake.  It was delicious!!  I loved every bit of it, especially that it was made with love from Mom.  Even though I know she does not like to bake, it meant a lot and I loved it!

Thank you for another wonderful Birthday!!!