Cranberry Cereal Crisps

Cranberry Cereal Crisps

If you didn’t OD on baking or eating sweets over the holidays, or you just like to keep your cookie jar full, here’s a great cookie recipe that can be made easily and is really tasty. And, it’s a good way to use up the last couple servings of crisp rice cereal (i.e. Rice Krispies) languishing in the bottom of the box.

The texture of these cookies is also really pleasing: melt-in-your-mouth tender, yet crisp – all at the same time!

This recipe makes a big batch (about 5 dozen), so to be fair to your waist, hips, thighs, and all those other body parts where excess weight tends to migrate, enjoy a few, then freeze the rest to eat over the next while!

Cranberry Cereal Crisps
(Makes about 60 cookies)

1 cup (250 mL) butter, softened
1 cup (250 mL) granulated sugar
1 cup (250 mL) brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup (250 mL) vegetable oil
1 tsp (5 mL) vanilla
3-1/2 cups (875 mL) all-purpose flour
1 tsp (5 mL) baking soda
1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
1 cup (250 mL) large flake oats
2 cups (500 mL) crisp rice cereal
1 cup (250 mL) dried cranberries (or chopped dried apricots)

Beat butter, sugars and egg on medium speed of electric mixer until light and creamy. Stir in oil and vanilla.

Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture along with oats, mixing on low speed until well blended. Stir in cereal and cranberries or apricots.

Drop dough by heaping tablespoonfuls (about 20 mL), about 2 inches (5 cm) apart, onto an ungreased cookie sheet.

I like to use this handy cookie batter scoop. (It's the clear acrylic utensil with blue-bottomed scoop.) It allows you to easily measure out a specific quantity of batter.

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Hard-cook eggs and bake muffins at the same time with Egg in a Nest muffins

Eggs in a Nest Muffins - the eggs hard-cook as the muffins bake!

Egg in a Nest Muffins (image from Egg Farmers of Ontario, circa 1990)

This “recipe” for Egg in a Nest Muffins has been around for awhile. Perhaps you can tell by the dated look of the picture. I scanned it from a photograph found in the archives of the Egg Farmers of Ontario; it was probably taken about 20 years ago. But the idea is still a good one and a fun festive way to say “Happy Easter” at breakfast tomorrow.

With this easy multi-tasking recipe, you hard-cook eggs and bake muffins at the same time. If you want to make things super-easy, use a muffin mix instead of your favourite muffin recipe.

Fruit, yogurt and juice would complement these protein-packed muffins nicely and make for a simple but delicious breakfast that will allow plenty of time to hunt for treats left by the Easter Bunny.

Egg in a Nest Muffins

Ingredients for your favourite muffins
Medium or large eggs, in their shells (1 per muffin)

Prepare muffin batter. Rub eggs lightly with vegetable oil. Fill lightly greased or paper-lined muffin cups with batter. Gently place one uncooked egg, in its shell, partially into each “muffin”.

Bake in a preheated 400F (200C) oven for 18 to 20 minutes.

Let cool 15 to 20 minutes before serving as eggs will be hot.

To eat, remove the egg from the muffin, peel off the shell and enjoy with the muffin.

* For a pretty Easter look, use paper liners with an Easter design and coloured eggs. A little of the color may bleed into the muffins, but it won’t affect the taste.
* Serve warm or cold but refrigerate if not eaten within a couple hours.

Recipe pranks for April Fool’s Day


Is it a fried egg?

Be on guard tomorrow. It’s April Fool’s Day.

All may not be what it appears. Even at the breakfast or dinner table.

Nope! It's a Chocolate Egg Pop!

Nope! It's a chocolate fried egg on a stick!

With the following “recipes”, you”ll be the one planning the surprises, serving “cake” for dinner and “spaghetti and meatballs” for dessert. Don’t be fooled into thinking these ideas are difficult. Read on to see how easy it will be to play food pranks on your fellow diners tomorrow, or any day of the year.

If you want more wacky food ideas and recipe pranks, there are additional suggestions and videos at Family Fun magazine’s website.

  • Fried Egg and Toast? – Serve breakfast for dessert. Create a faux fried egg by spooning vanilla yogurt or sweetened whipped cream on a plate in the shape of the white of a fried egg. Add the yolk by placing a well-drained canned apricot or peach half, round side up, on top of the yogurt or cream, a little to one end. Toast a slice of pound cake. Spread with a thin layer of jam. Serve with the fried egg.
  • Drink Up! – Prepare fruit-flavored gelatin according to package directions. Pour into drinking glasses. Place a straw in each glass. Chill until set. At serving time, garnish rim of glasses with fruit. Serve and see how long it takes for someone to request a spoon to eat the “drink”.
  • An Antsy Cake – Turn a layer cake, ice cream cake or cheesecake into an anthill with this easy treatment. On top of the cake, carefully pour crushed vanilla wafers or nuts in a small mound to resemble an anthill. Arrange ants parading around the top of the cake and climbing up or down the side of the cake and/or the anthill using a chocolate-covered almond for each ant body and a chocolate-covered raisin or caramel (e.g. Skor Bites) for each  ant head. Pipe on eyes and legs using a tube of black gel icing.

Meat Loaf Cake

(Makes 8 to 10 servings)

Favourite meatloaf recipe (use 2 to 3 lbs/1 to 1.5 kg) ground beef
Hot mashed potatoes (about 4 cups/1 L)
Cherry tomatoes

Prepare meatloaf mixture as usual but before cooking, divide mixture in two and place into two 8-inch (20 cm) cake pans. Bake as usual, allowing a shorter time since meatloaf will likely cook faster as the mixture will be thinner than usual.

Meanwhile, prepare mashed potatoes using boiled or instant potatoes. The mashed potatoes should be fluffy and spreadable. Keep mashed potatoes warm until meat loaves are cooked.

Once cooked, drain fat from meat loaves. Invert one loaf onto a round pizza pan or heatproof plate. Cover with a thick even layer of mashed potatoes. Place second loaf on top and “frost” the top and sides of cake with remaining mashed potatoes.

If desired, some of the mashed potatoes can be spooned into a piping bag fitted with a decorative tip and piped around top or bottom edge of cake.

Place cake in a preheated 350F (180C) oven for 10 minutes to warm through. Remove from oven and decorate with halved cherry tomatoes. If desired, write a message on top of cake with ketchup. (If the opening of the ketchup bottle is too large to write a message easily, spoon some ketchup into a clean piping bag or a squeeze bottle with a small top to write your message.)

Spaghetti and Meat Ball Dessert

(Makes 1 serving)

Small slice of pound cake or half of a cupcake
Homemade or prepared icing
Yellow food coloring (if desired)
Strawberry sauce
2 of 3 chocolate malt balls or small truffles
Ground almonds or grated white chocolate
Chopped white chocolate or chocolate chips or candy melts
Lady fingers or biscotti
Toasted coconut
Green sprinkles

Place pound cake in the centre of a plate.

If desired, tint icing with food colouring to resemble the colour of cooked spaghetti. Spoon icing into a decorating tube fitted with a large circular tip; pipe icing in a looping fashion around the sides of the pound cake (don’t frost the top) to resemble spaghetti.

Spoon strawberry sauce (meat sauce) on top of the cake to cover it. Drizzle a little over portions of the spaghetti.

Using the dull side of a knife or a grater, rough up the surface of the malt balls (meatballs). Place them on top of the sauce.

Sprinkle ground almonds (parmesan cheese) over sauce and meatballs.
Carefully melt white chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave oven; stir until smooth. Spread chocolate over lady fingers (garlic bread). Sprinkle coconut (garlic) and green sprinkles (parsley) over top. Serve with spaghetti and meatballs.

Cinnamon Toast: sweet, cinnamon-y and simple!

The heady aroma of cinnamon greeted me a couple days ago when I entered the building where I work. It smelled as deliciously enticing as the aisle where the Cinnabon store is located in my local shopping mall.

Unfortunately I was not greeted with an oversized cinnamon bun oozing with a buttery cinnamon-sugar filling and dripping with icing. No, a co-worker had simply made cinnamon toast to start her day, permeating the office with the sweet smell of the familiar spice.

It was a fragrant reminder that sometimes the simple things are truly the best.

Savour the aroma and taste of Cinnamon Toast!

Savour the aroma and taste of Cinnamon Toast!

To make Cinnamon Toast, you can either toast or broil the bread. Either way, it’s is a deliciously simple treat!

Cinnamon Toast

(Makes 4 slices)

2 tablespoons (30 mL) granulated or brown sugar
1/2  teaspoon (2 mL) ground cinnamon
4 slices bread
Butter or margarine, at room temperature

Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Method 1: Toast bread. Spread with butter. Sprinkle sugar-cinnamon mixture over top.

Method 2: Place slices of bread on a baking sheet. Spread each slice with butter. Sprinkle sugar-cinnamon mixture over top. Broil bread 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) from grill until cinnamon-sugar topping is bubbly, about a minute or two. Watch closely so bread doesn’t burn.


* Use the bread of your choice (whole wheat, white, Challah, French, etc.) or English muffins or bagels.
* Vary the proportion of sugar and cinnamon as you like.
* Make up extra topping mixture and fill a small spice bottle, container or sugar shaker so you can readily make cinnamon toast whenever the craving hits.
* If you’re a chocolate lover, add a little cocoa powder or some finely grated chocolate to the sugar-cinnamon mixture.

Hallowe’en Fun with Food

Happy Hallowe'en!

Happy Hallowe'en

Hallowe’en is the perfect holiday to go over the top with decorations and party food. It’s probably the only time of year when poor taste and “grossness” are preferred, or at least tolerated.

If you’re planning a Hallowe’en menu, you can go all out and spend lots of time, money and energy on creating a “terrorific” atmosphere at the dinner table. Or you can unleash your imagination and stir up little home-brewed ambiance by simply renaming favorite foods.

Need some inspiration?

Why not serve worms and eyeballs and dried bones (spaghetti and meatballs and biscuits) for supper? Or how about witch’s fingers and slime sauce (chicken strips and ranch dressing or plum sauce dyed green) or barbequed bat wings (chicken wings) or witches’ brew and dracula diggers (chili and tortilla chips)?

Wild and whacky side dishes might include grass and weeds with sliced toadstools and witch’s teeth (salad greens with mushrooms and sunflower seeds), maggots (rice), rotting teeth (corn) or lizard tongues (sautéed red pepper strips or carrot sticks).

Pond scum (jello with gummi worms) or bones (meringue cookies) make delicious desserts, and swamp water (frozen lemonade concentrate, lemon-lime pop and lime sherbet) will wash the meal down.

Sounds tasty, doesn’t it?

Here are a couple recipes for dried bones. Bon Appetit!

Breadstick Bones
(Makes 6 breadsticks)

1 can refrigerated breadsticks
Melted butter or margarine
Italian seasoning, Tex Mex seasoning or grated Parmesan cheese

Open can and unroll dough; separate into 6 strips. Carefully stretch each strip until about 12 inches (30 cm) long. Loosely tie a knot in both ends of each breadstick. Place breadsticks on an ungreased baking sheet.

Brush melted butter over breadsticks. Sprinkle seasoning or cheese over top.

Bake in a preheated 375F (190C) oven until golden brown, about 13 to 15 minutes. Serve warm.


Meringue Bones
(Makes about 2 dozen cookies)

5 egg whites
1/4 tsp (1 mL) cream of tartar
1-1/4 cups (300 mL) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla, orange or lemon extract

Line 1 or 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Prepare a piping bag with a round tip (about 3/8 inch/1 cm diameter).

With an electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, a couple tablespoons (about 30 mL) at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until stiff peaks form and meringue is shiny and smooth. Add extract and beat just until combined.

Fill piping bag with meringue. Pipe a log about 3 inches (8 cm) long. Pipe two balls on both sides of the ends of the log. Repeat with remaining meringue. You can smooth any peaks that occur with a wet finger.

Bake in a preheated 220F (105C) oven for 30 minutes. Turn off heat. Leave cookies in oven for 8 hours or overnight. Store in an airtight container.

* Let egg whites stand at room temperature for 20 minutes after separating; they will beat to a greater volume if they aren’t cold.

* Stirring a drop or two of yellow food colouring into the meringue mixture before baking will give the bones an aged look.

* If you don’t have a piping bag, use a sturdy ziplock bag. Cut off the tip once you have filled the bag with meringue mixture.

Chocolatey sweets make special treats

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Mars Bars Squares

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Mars Bars Rice Krispie Squares

A few weeks ago I attended the opening of my artist friend Carol Wiebe’s first art quilt show. (The show is on until the end of October at the Greenwood Quiltery in Guelph if you want to see some unique and visually stunning art pieces.)

Prior to the show, Carol had mentioned the gallery would be providing refreshments at the opening. I enjoy baking so I offered to bring a plate of ‘something’. The days leading up to the opening were particularly busy so my contribution ended up being something fast and easy, NOT an example of fine baking skills!

I had picked up a box of Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate cookie mix from Costco a few weeks earlier, curious to see how a cookie mix branded by a reputable chocolatier stacked up to homemade cookies. A batch of these cookies proved easy to whip up. (My assessment: the cookies tasted fine, but were thin and crisp/somewhat chewy – depending how long you baked them. My personal preference is a thicker, chewier chocolate chip cookie.)

I also brought Mars Bars Squares – a chocolatey version of Rice Krispie Squares. The recipe goes together very quickly and is always well received. An added bonus – it requires few ingredients – crisp rice cereal, margarine, chocolate chips and Mars bars (known as Snickers in the U.S.). I keep a well stocked pantry of baking supplies so I’m usually 3 for 4 on the ingredient list for these squares. I picked up a 4-pack of Mars bars on the way home from work one day, and was able to make these squares in minutes.

Here’s the recipe.

Mars Bars Squares
(Makes 36 squares)

The recipe calls for 50 g Mars bars, but Mars in Canada are 58 g bars. I made the squares without noticing the size difference (Has it changed recently? How unusual that the bar got bigger instead of smaller??) until I was just about to combine the melted bars and margarine mixture with the cereal so I tossed in another 1/2 cup (125 mL) cereal to balance out the ingredients. The squares turned out fine. You could do the same or reserve half of one of the bars for nibbling later – or while you’re baking!

I think the squares are chocolatey enough but for visual effect you could also drizzle white chocolate over top of the layer of melted chocolate chips.

4 (50 g/1-3/4 oz) Mars bars, sliced into 1/2-inch (1 cm) pieces
1/2 cup (125 mL) hard margarine
3 cups (750 mL) crisp rice cereal
1 cup (250 mL) semisweet chocolate chips
1/4 cup (60 mL) hard margarine

Heat Mars bars and 1/2 cup (125 mL) margarine in a large saucepan on low, stirring constantly, until melted and combined. (Mixture may look greasy initially but keep whisking until it blends together.) Remove from heat.

Add rice cereal. Stir to combine. Pack evenly into a greased or foil-lined 9 x 9-inch (23 x 23 cm) baking pan.

Heat chocolate chips and 1/4 cup (60 mL) margarine in a small saucepan, stirring often, until smooth. Spread over top.

Let bars cool. Cut into squares.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Chocolate everything by Jean Pare, Company’s Coming Publishing Limited, 2000

Mars bar - an energy bar

Mars bar - an energy bar, not a chocolate bar

Did you know…?

Mars bars are called “energy bars”, not chocolate bars as we typically refer to them and other similar snacks in Canada, or candy bars as I hear Americans call them.



Berry Banana Smoothies

When it’s too hot to cook, a thick, smooth, cold, creamy beverage can fill me up and chill me down – all at the same time!

I’ve always got the basic ingredients to make smoothies (frozen fruit and ice cream, yogurt or sherbet) in my freezer. Fresh fruit can also be used to make these creamy smooth beverages, but for a really frosty, thick drink, I prefer frozen fruit. You can freeze fruits like berries and peaches during the summer and fall when they’re in season so you have them on hand year round. Or, you can purchase bags of prepared frozen fruits.

Since I always seem to buy too many bananas and their yellow skins darken and flesh softens before we get around to eating the bunch, those that have ripened beyond my preference automatically go into the freezer. To make it easier and less messy to use them later in smoothies (or baking), and to keep them from turning brown, before they get added to the large resealable bag of frozen bananas in my freezer, I peel them and wrap each one individually in a small piece of plastic wrap.

Frozen yogurt, sherbet or ice cream will also help add thickness to a smoothie. If you don’t have any of these options on hand, but you have some yogurt in your fridge, place the required amount in a plastic container and put it in the freezer until it’s firm (about 4 hours), stirring occasionally.

You almost can’t go wrong blending ingredients to make a smoothie. And experimenting is half the fun!

Here’s the recipe for a smoothie I enjoyed last week while sitting on our deck – book in one hand, beverage in the other! (I used the last few blueberries from last season to make the smoothies.)

Berry Banana Smoothie
(Makes 2 servings)

2 cups (500 mL) milk
1 cup (250 mL) orange sherbet
1 cup (250 mL) fresh or frozen blueberries, raspberries or strawberries
1 frozen banana, cut into pieces

In a blender, combine milk, sherbet, berries and banana. Process until smooth. Pour into two tall glasses. Serve with a straw.

Variation: Instead of orange sherbet, try another fruit-flavoured sherbet or vanilla or fruit-flavoured frozen yogurt. Vanilla ice cream can be substituted too.)

Pucker up, biscuit lovers!

Biscuit Lips
Biscuit Lips

No lip liner, botox injections or other enhancements needed to make these puffed and pouty babies! These hot lips are meant to be devoured as a fun, if not somewhat unusual, accompaniment (in appearance, that is!) to soups, stews or salads. Given a sensual slathering of strawberry or raspberry jam (or whatever flavour you prefer – red just seemed appropriate!), you could also serve them for dessert or tea.

These biscuits are slightly on the sweet side. I’d knock back the sugar to 1 tablespoon (15 mL) or eliminate it altogether if you don’t plan to serve the biscuits alongside a savoury dish.

To create the lip look, roll out the biscuit dough and cut out rounds. Score (cut a line across the diameter) each circle without cutting all the way through. Butter the surface (the next time I make this recipe, I’m going to spread the circle with a generous amount of jam), then fold one half over to form a half circle. As they bake, the lip shape will form.

Biscuit Lips
(Makes about 20)

2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons (20 mL) baking powder
2 tablespoons (30 mL) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
1/3 cup (75 mL) cold butter or margarine
3/4 cup (225 mL) milk
Butter or margarine, for spreading (optional)

Mix flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in or work in butter with a pastry blender or a couple knives until mixture is crumbly. Add milk; stir with a fork until mixture begins to adhere together. Gather into a ball and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently 10 times.

With a rolling pin, roll out until 1/4-inch (1.5 cm) thick. Cut into approximately 2-3/4-inch (7 cm) circles. Cut through centre of each circle with a sharp knife just to barely score the surface. Spread with butter, if desired. Fold over, butter side in, and press edges together gently. Arrange on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake in a preheated 425F (220C) oven until biscuits are risen and lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Recipe Source: Soups and Sandwiches by Jean Pare, Company’s Coming Publishing Limited, 1987

Another winning Brownie recipe

Fudge-Iced Brownies

This Fudge-Iced Brownie recipe is courtesy of Heather Albrecht who works for the Kitchener Rangers hockey club. The recipe originated with Mary Moore, former food columnist for the Kitchener Record (now known as the Waterloo Region Record).

Heather says (and I’d concur) that this recipe is a winner – delicious and very easy to make. The brownies mix up in one bowl with no melting of chocolate required, and they taste very rich and fudgey. One bite and you’ll know why they’re called Fudge-Iced Brownies. Consider them a special treat!

Heather starts checking the brownies for doneness after about 20 minutes of baking because she doesn’t want them to dry out. She finds that the baking time varies with the outdoor temperature and humidity.

I baked these brownies in a Pyrex baking pan so I found the brownies took 40 minutes to bake to my liking. (Brownies will cook faster in a metal baking pan than in a glass pan.) They turned out very fudgey and moist.

Determining when brownies are done can be a challenge. Of course if they are overbaked, you run the risk of drying them out. But if really underbaked, they will be soft, sticky (almost gooey), and they won’t hold their shape well.

Often you can tell visually how close to done brownies are because the centre section of brownies in the pan may look wet and glossy. Start testing for doneness early as oven temperatures vary, and brownies can go from perfectly baked to overbaked in mere minutes. It’s best to underbake brownies rather than the opposite.

The easiest ways to test if brownies are done are the touch and toothpick tests. Gently touching the surface of the brownies with your fingertip will give you an indication of how set the brownies are. If the brownies feel set, insert a toothpick or cake tester into the centre. If the toothpick comes out wet, with batter clinging to it, the brownies are not ready. If the toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs sticking to it, the brownies are done. For optimal flavour and texture, let them cool completely before icing and indulging!

Fudge-Iced Brownies
(Makes a 9 x 13-inch/3 L baking pan)

2 cups (500 mL) brown sugar
1 cup (250 mL) butter, softened
1 cup (250 mL) all-purpose flour
1 cup (250 mL) chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup (125 mL) cocoa
4 eggs
2 teaspoons (10 mL) vanilla

½ cup (125 mL) butter
5 tablespoons (75 mL) cocoa
1/8 teaspoon (.5 mL) salt
2 teaspoons (10 mL) vanilla
2 cups (500 mL) icing sugar
Hot water

To make Brownies: Combine brown sugar, butter, flour, walnuts (if using), cocoa, eggs and vanilla in a bowl. With electric mixer, beat at medium speed until smooth and creamy. Spread evenly into a buttered 9 x 13 (3 L) baking pan. Bake at 300F (150C) until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the brownies comes out with a few crumbs clinging to it, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.

To make Icing: Melt butter in a saucepan; stir in cocoa, salt and vanilla. Heat mixture, stirring frequently, until boiling. Remove from heat and stir in icing sugar. (Mixture will be thick.) Add small amounts (1 to 2 teaspoons/5 to 10 mL) of hot water at a time and beat with a whisk until mixture is just thin enough to spread over brownies.

(For more brownie recipes, visit Brownie Lover’s Diary.)

Personal pan Pizza Frittata – fast and delish!

As a follow up to my April 28th post with the recipe for Pizza Frittata, here’s a picture of a quick-version single-serving Pizza Frittata.

Pizza Frittata for one!
Pizza Frittata for one!

I made this frittata in an 8-inch (20 cm) frying pan with 2 eggs and a couple shakes of seasoning blend. The recipe for the herbed seasoning blend is also in that post. Instead of making your own seasoning blend (which is as complicated as making a trip to a grocery store or bulk food store that sells dried herbs in bulk!), you can use Italian Seasoning to add a pizza-y flavour.

I topped the frittata with pepperoni and cheese, omitting the green pepper, onion and mushrooms called for in the original recipe. You can use whatever pizza toppings you like to personalize your Pizza Frittata.

The frittata will slide right out of the pan onto a plate. It’s best eaten with a fork as it will be hot. If you let it cool a little, then cut it into wedges, it could be served as an appetizer, sans cutlery!

This is such a simple and great-tasting recipe. No flash in the pan, but certainly ready in a flash!

When making presentations about eggs to high school Family Studies classes, I often ask a couple students to help me make a few 6 or 8-egg versions of Pizza Frittata so everyone can have a taste. The recipe always goes over well.