Friday, April 20, 2012

Flat-Broke Food: The Grand Finale

By now, you've worked your way through a week's worth of foods that are a triple threat: frugal, easy to make and most of all -- tasty. Need more ideas? You'll find my personal list on the Brickworks blog: A Dozen Frugal Cookbooks You've Never Heard Of (Plus Two You Have). There are many more dishes out there to try, especially in cookbooks that detail other countries' cuisines. Thanks to a Denver restaurant, New Saigon, I've been inspired to fool around with Vietnamese food (lighter, spicier, lots of fresh veggies.). Thai food is also on my culinary horizon, after some preliminary messing around with curries and Thai noodles. Oh, the burden of getting to cook delicious, interesting food! (limp hand to forehead)

Enjoy the journey. We'll be back with more recipes and ideas around May Day, then will present a Week of Barbecue just in time for Memorial Day weekend. Come on back and visit -- or better yet, sign up to 'follow' or subscribe to e-mail, so you don't miss a single, succulent bite.

Flat-Broke Food: Whacky Cake!

I hope you've been enjoying this week of frugal food. Many of these recipes are from our cultural past -- it may confuse us sometimes, but Americans have been very fortunate to be able to choose from so many cultures for our food and pastimes. How could our country have gotten so far, without all these different contributions to the cultural pot? The answer is -- we couldn't.

The last in this particular batch is a cake that grew out of shortages, particularly WWII and the Depression. Eggs were not always obtainable, unless you lived on a farm; milk could also be scarce. And much of the country's snacks, including chocolate, went to the troops.
    Enter a moist, chocolaty cake that undoubtedly emerged out of desperation from some housewife's creative mind. It takes less than ten minutes to stir up -- and it can be mixed right in the pan. (She must have been busy.) Either her pantry was empty, or she was just 'out:' this cake uses no eggs -- milk -- butter -- chocolate chips. And it's low in fat. (Take note -- great for vegans, those watching their weight, or people with allergies.) 
     The magic ingredients: cocoa -- and vinegar!

1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
3 tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons oil (1/4 cup, plus one tablespoon -- I use olive oil)
1 cup water

Set your oven to 350 degrees. Pour the dry ingredients into a 8" square or round pan -- mix, and shape three wells in the dry stuff. (You can also mix in a bowl.) Pour the liquid ingredients in, water last, and quickly mix. Bake for 30 min., or until a toothpick is dry when inserted in the center.
    This recipe can be easily doubled for a 9x 13 pan or bundt/angel food cake pan; it may take up to 45 min. to bake.

This cake is tasty served as-is, or with a sprinkle of powdered sugar. Or, for you spendthrifts out there who can afford butter and cream (!!!), add an easy frosting. It's very similar to that used for German chocolate cake.

1/3 cup softened butter or margaine
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cream
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1/2 cup coconut

Mix butter, sugar and cream together; add nuts and coconut. Frost your cake while it's still warm. Watch your guests gobble it down...and smile to yourself.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Flat-Broke Food: Chowder en Pisces

Fish-head stew. It's what Charlie's mom served in the movie Chaplin, when they were dead broke and about to get thrown out of their flat. Fish heads are certainly cheap: I just saw salmon heads at our local Vietnamese fish market for less than $1 a pound. (And salmon is running about $8-12/lb around here in Colorado -- $5.99/lb on sale.) 
    But can they be tasty?
    Yes -- if you follow a few standard rules. First, get them as fresh as possible. Next, look for the biggest heads you can find -- like salmon or sturgeon. (Salmon cheeks are actually considered a delicacy!) Ask the meat department clerk at your local grocery store. They may be discarding the heads when they process fish, and will be glad to sell them cheap -- or even give them away.
   Finally, cook them first to remove the meat: scrub the heads in warm water with a little vinegar, cover with fresh boiling water, and gently simmer until the meat is firm and flakes easily. Pull the meat off, and use it in your favorite recipe. (Discard any fat - it's what gives it that fishy taste -- preferably to your dog or cat!)
     Once it cools, pour out the cooking water on any plants that could use the extra nutrients. The bones can be buried near plants, as well.

This fish is wonderful in pasta or a casserole. Or try it in a chowder, like this 'receet' inspired by one in Stories and Recipes from the Great Depression of the 1930s, Vol. III, by Rita Van Amber.

approx. 2-4 pounds meat from larger fish heads
           (Two sturgeon heads will give you about 3-4 pounds meat. Substitute 2-3 pounds salmon heads, if you prefer, or other fish heads. Prepare the heads first, using the instructions above. If you think this will bother your guests or family, tell them after the meal -- or not at all. This is our secret.)

6-10 cups chicken broth
     (or use water and 5 chicken bouillon cubes. 
          A few cups of meat gravy, plus water, can be substituted)
5-8 potatoes
1 onion
3 carrots

3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk 

Start the broth; while it's heating, dice the meat and chop the vegetables. Dump everything into the simmering broth, and let cook for about 30-45 min. (Or 3-4 hours on low in a crockpot.) Add more water as needed to keep it at soup consistency.
     Mix flour in milk, pour it in and stir until the soup thickens. "Do not boil after you add the milk mixture; keep it just below the boiling point. Salt to taste and add all the pepper your family can enjoy. I like it to warm me as it goes down..."
     (thanks to Carl Holland for his contribution. Serves from 4-8)

Flat-Broke Food: Emergency Pantry

 We all hit times when things are looking a tad sparse in the food department. That's not so bad -- for one thing, it means that you're cycling through your food supplies without wasting much. For another, it gives you a fresh place to start from.

First, figure out what you've got. Check the frig -- freezer -- shelves.

Second, tidy up. This is a perfect chance to wipe down shelves and scrub out the veggie crisper. Your kitchen will look and smell better for it. (While you're at it, scrub the floor, too. Makes you feel very efficient.)

Now you're ready. Begin with the basics. Eggs, butter, milk and flour can make pancakes and bread. Biscuits are not difficult, either. Olive oil is healthier than many other types, and can be used in a variety of ways. Popcorn (great for snacks), oatmeal, dry beans (pintos are cheapest around here) and rice keep a long time -- buy them in as large a package as you can afford. (Noodles are good, but can be made by hand. Buy macaroni or pasta instead, if your money is tight.) Add brown and white sugar, baking powder/soda and salt, and you've got a solid start.
     Coffee and tea are nice to have around, as well -- but if need be, you can wait on those. Grinding your own coffee beans gives a fresher taste, and using a 'British-style' tea (we Americans are such wimps in this department) gives you a stronger cup.

Next, add as few or many spices as you can afford. Dried onion and garlic flavor any dish nicely. I also rely on cinnamon, nutmeg, marjoram, basil, oregano (look for a good Italian blend, if you prefer), curry and chili powder, mustard. A bottle of hot sauce is a must; add bottles of ketchup, barbecue sauce, steak or Worcestershire sauce when you can, as well as a jar of onion soup mix. (Dole the latter out sparingly to zip up homemade soup, or add a tablespoonful to your meatloaf.)

Now look at what fresh vegetables you can afford. Root veggies, like onions, carrots and potatoes, are a standard, and generally cheaper than the others. (Tip: buy a bunch of green onions, if the larger ones are expensive -- they'll flavor your food nicely, and add color.) A bunch of spinach not only will serve for salads, but is good chopped into soup, stews or casseroles. For fruit -- what's on sale? If nothing looks appealing (or cheap enough), bananas are usually the next option. (Don't forget canned peaches, pears, oranges, either.)

And finally on the list: a loaf of bread, corn and flour tortillas.  Crackers, if you can. A few extra cans of vegetables, corned beef hash, soups, etc. will fill out your cupboard and give you quick meals at short notice.

The ten things I think should always be in a pantry? I'd add these, too.

This basic pantry can help you head in all sorts of culinary directions, at surprisingly little cost.

Flat-Broke Food: Scraping Bottom - Kratser, Schmorn and Toad In The Hole

Desperate for food? There aren't many of us at that point. Fortunately, soup kitchens and food pantries are a help for people who honestly don't know where their next meal is coming from. During the terrible Thirties and Forties of the Great Depression, a lot more had that uncertainty to deal with.

Some of their recipes can help you stretch basic ingredients even further.

Take Schmorn, for example. This all-in-one skillet pancake was a staple for families then, and is still a great basic breakfast. And all you need is milk, eggs and flour. P.S. It also can use up leftover breadcrumbs.

(also known as Schmarren or Kratser)
   "It can be made from any number of eggs, a little more milk than you'd use for scrambled eggs, a little sugar, salt and powder and enough flour to make a thin batter, like a very thin pancake batter. [Mom] fried it in butter in a hot black iron skillet, stirring and turning it until it was a golden brown.
   "My husband's mother made it by adding bread crumbs to the egg-milk mixture, with a pinch of salt, sugar and no baking powder, until all liquid is absorbed."
           (Julie Weiss)

   'The mother of a Whitehall lady' gave another version: "My  mother heated 2 cups of milk, broke up dry bread, as much as could be absorbed and poured three or four beaten eggs with salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar and fried it in a pan. Good!"

These recipes resemble 'Dutch Baby' pancakes. Use a little meat, and your 'Kratser' comes closer to the traditional Yorkshire pudding.

"These dishes were made many times a week and the families never tired of them."

"Fry bacon cut into small pieces. Pour over it a batter made of 3 eggs, 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup flour and seasoning. Stir and turn until it is a gold brown, like omelets. Pork cracklings were also used in this dish."
  (all recipes are from Stories and Recipes of the Great Depression of the 1930's by Janet Van Amber Paske)

One supper dish my family loves uses the same Yorkshire pudding/popover-type batter -- but with sausages. It's called, aptly:

  • 1-2 teaspoons butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup milk 
*1/2 - 1 pound sausages

Turn the oven to 450 degrees, put the butter in a 9" square or round baking dish, and heat it until the butter is melted. In the meantime, quickly stir the other ingredients together. (Speed is important here.)  Pour the batter into the hot pan, and drop in one larger sausage for each person, or 2-3 breakfast sausages. (They will 'peek' out of the batter as it bakes around them.) Bake 15-20 minutes, until the mixture is set and dry on top. Serve right away for up to 4 people

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Flat-Broke Food: Popcorn, Caramel Corn & Popcorn Balls

     What's cheap, low-calorie (if you don't load it with butter, that is) and gives you a nice hit of fiber along with its crunchiness? Few snack foods can compete with popcorn in this department. It played a weekly role at our house, late Sunday afternoons. We had a huge Tupperware container, and Dad would pop it full of warm, salty popcorn which we enjoyed while watching Bonanza and Ed Sullivan. That popcorn hung around for after-school and between-times snacking until Wednesday or so...until the process repeated itself.

    Not only has popcorn been the last-minute meal for many an office worker, but it was featured in meals during the Depression. Ever had popcorn and milk? It's a surprising combination of warm and cold, salty and sweet. (And it's fun to see how many kernels you can jam in your glass.)

Commercial microwave popcorn is the easiest to make, but doesn't produce as much bang for the buck. Try making your own microwave popcorn. You'll need:

small paper bag
1 teaspoon olive or other oil
1/3 cup popcorn (adjust to your taste)

That's it. Pour popcorn in the bag and sprinkle oil on top. Fold top over a few times, and microwave 2 minutes on high, or until the kernels stop popping. Open the bag (careful of the steam), salt and butter to your heart's content.
    You don't even have to use oil -- Mark Bittman, of the New York Times' Diners' Journal, does it straight. (Go here for his report.)

     Once your popcorn is done, you can add all sorts of flavorings, from parmesan cheese to pizza spices. (Some good ideas are here, thanks to Donna Freedman.)
     My favorite, though, is caramel corn -- crunchy, sweet, lower calorie than many desserts, and still that wallop of fiber in every bite. There are a lot of recipes out there for oven or stove caramel corn. (Frugal Upstate's got a good one. Simply Recipes' version is pretty good, too.)
     But it's far easier to do it via microwave. This recipe makes great caramel corn -- and automatically cleans up when you throw away the paper bag! I've served it warm as a dessert course to raves, but it also is perfect for a home movie night or picnic. The recipe first made its way down through the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) chapter in our area; I've used it for years. As always, adjust to your own taste.


large paper grocery sack
4-5 quarts of popped popcorn (take out any unpopped kernels, if you see them)
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white or brown Karo syrup
1/2 cup margarine or butter (1 stick)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (hold this back for a bit)

Put all but the popcorn in a 6-8 cup measure or bowl -- microwave at high 3-4 min. until the butter is melted, and it's boiling. Add baking soda, and stir until light and foamy. Put the popcorn in the bag, and pour the liquid mixture on top -- turn the edges over a few times, and gently shake the bag.
    Put the whole bag in the microwave. (It will fit awkwardly, if it's anything like mine.) Microwave 1 1/2 min. at high; shake the bag. Microwave again 1 1/2 min. Take the bag out, shake it one more time, then pour into a large bowl. Use a spatula to gently break apart the clumps. If you like Cracker Jack, try adding a cup or so of peanuts and/or chopped nuts to the mixture.

Finally, there are popcorn balls. Some people associate these with Christmas, but my mom always hands them out at Halloween. Cousins have been known to drive for miles just to get one of her popcorn balls. Again, there are lots of recipes out there for making popcorn balls -- most involve concocting a liquid syrup that eventually hardens. (Paula Deen's version is like this.) The Mama doesn't mess with that -- her version goes straight for the culinary jugular, in a style similar to Rice Krispies squares.


3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 standard package marshmallows (about 40)
6 cups popped popcorn (take out any unpopped kernels -- i.e., 'old maids')

Put the butter and marshmallows in a large pan, on top of low to medium heat. Clear a spot on a cookie sheet, or nearby counter. Gently stir the marshmallow mixture until it's melted -- this is going to be a while, usually 7-10 min. Quickly mix the popcorn in and take it off the heat. Butter your hands. (Yes, slather them with butter -- or use the leftover paper from your butter/marg.) Working quickly, grab handfuls of the popcorn mixture and shape them into balls, then put on a sheet or counter to cool. (Some people like to shape the popcorn around a center surprise, like red hots, chocolate chips, M&Ms and such -- but purists just prefer the straight ball.) Continue until the mixture is used up -- cook gets to scrape out the pan! Wrap your popcorn balls in wax paper; this recipe makes 8-16 popcorn balls, depending on how large you make them. (It's easier to make a batch at a time, rather than doubling.)

(photos from Paula Deen and Simply Recipe websites)

While you're at it, go to the Rice Krispies website for the basic recipe, plus more ways to use this versatile snack. Yum.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Flat-Broke Food: Jager Kohl and other Meaty Dishes

 It's tough being a meat-eater when your pocket's empty. Beef, especially roasts and steaks, is inexorably heading toward $10 a pound (if it hasn't already gotten there in a lot of areas.). Pork, veal and lamb are trotting right along behind it.
   The answer: look for dishes that use small amounts of meat, yet speak their flavor out strongly. Like Jager Kohl, a German "Hunter's Cabbage" that's almost a hash, almost a stew: delicious, either way. This and the other recipes are from Ann Rogers' A Cookbook for Poor Poets and Others. As she points out, "Poor poets, unless they truly are vegetarians, need is better for them than suppers of fortified bread and martinis. They need meat because it is good for them to say, 'I had steak for dinner last night,' and mean it because it is true."

1/2 pound bacon or sausages
3 large potatoes
1 small head cabbage
2 tablespoons flour
salt, pepper and a dash of cider vinegar
1/2 pint sour cream or yogurt

Fry the bacon/sausage; drain off most of the fat and add thick slices of potatoes and cabbage. Sprinkle flour over top, along with spices, then add enough water to barely cover. Cover and simmer 45 min. - 1 hour. Serves 4, with the sour cream/yogurt alongside. "Rye bread and butter and a salad of apples and raisins rounds out this meal."

(Another version of this dish is here -- with polish sausage.)

Pocket-Poor heads in the same direction, but features onions, instead of cabbage.

2 1/2 pounds sweet onions
1 1/2 pounds potatoes
3/4 cup rice
1/2 pound smoked sausages

Peel and thick-slice potatoes and onions; add the rest, and bring to a boil in water just to cover. Season with a little salt and simmer slowly for about 30 min. (Check periodically, and add more water if the rice doesn't have enough.) Serves 4. 

or try a Dutch Dish -- same idea, just faster. My Dutch aunt Wilmetta says this reminds her of food she ate as a kid in rural South Dakota.

For each person, use:
1 each small onion, apple and potato
2-3 slices bacon   (I've substituted 1/2 cup of cut-up pork loin or stew meat, with good results)

Fry bacon until cooked, but not crisp. While it's frying, peel and grate the vegetables and apple. Break up the bacon, drain off some of the fat, add the veggies and fry at low temperature until done. "Turn out on a hot plate and grind lots of pepper over the top. Eat as is or with fried eggs...and hot, strong coffee."

(Try Flat Broke Foodie for a reverie on butchers and meat. Some other tasty budget meals here, too.)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Flat-Broke Food: Banana Bread (And Cake)

Bananas are one of the consistent reasonably-priced fruits at the store. And if they're a little brown, they're even cheaper. (Our local King Soopers prices them at 35 cents a pound.) 

Bananas can thicken a smoothie, or turn plain ice cream into a special occasion. (Add chocolate syrup, any leftover fruit you've got, plus a puff of whipped cream -- and you've got a banana split.) Dip them in melted chocolate or chocolate syrup, roll in chopped nuts and freeze for a healthy, tasty 'popsicle.' 

But the star is banana bread, a substantial loaf that's great toasted or not, spread with butter (or not), and alongside a bowl of soup, becomes a Filling Meal. The wonderful thing about this recipe? Add one banana more -- or less. Skip the nuts, or add chocolate chips or dried cranberries. You can even skip an egg. (Add a half-shellful of water, instead.) Doesn't matter -- it's still moist and tasty.


2 2/3 cups flour (if you live at high altitude, make sure this is a 'heaping' measure -- 3 cups total)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (one stick) butter or margarine
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2-3 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped (substitute any nuts -- or leave them out. Whatever.)

Grease a 9x5x3 loaf pan, and turn your oven on to 325 degrees.

Cream butter, sugar, and bananas together; add eggs and everything but flour. Gradually add flour, mixing as you go. (Mixture will be somewhat lumpy.) Scoop into pan, bake approx. 1 hour 20 minutes, or until top is golden-brown, and a toothpick or straw inserted comes out clean. Let cool for about 30 min., for easier slicing.

These make good muffins, too -- and only take 20-30 min. to bake.


Use the banana bread recipe, but add 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup extra sugar (or not), and another egg, if you've got it. Bake in a 9" square or round pan. Serve with a scoop of ice cream, or a puff of whipped cream.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Flat-Broke Food: Michigan Mac and Cheese

Be it ever so humble, there's always a place for macaroni and cheese.

Sure, you can make it fast and easy from a box. (I still prefer Kraft, after all these years.) But there's something extra homey -- not to mention tender, gooey and delicious -- about forking up mac & cheese you did yourself. Our girlies see it as the ultimate comfort food. Try this simple recipe when it's raining or dreary, and you'll see why.


1 pound macaroni
3 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/4-1/3 cup flour
milk to taste (about 1 1/2 cups -- instant dry milk plus water will work. So will milk that's 'going.')
1 teaspoon powdered or jarred mustard
dash of hot sauce
salt and pepper
1- 1 1/2 cups cheese, at least 2 different kinds - grated or chopped
     (here's the chance to use up that dried stuff in the back of the fridge)

Extras you can add with impunity (and clean out the fridge): a teaspoon or so of yogurt, cream cheese, sour cream, dried or chopped onion, or any veggies. A cup of  chopped ham, hamburger, chicken, turkey etc. elevate this to casserole status, and stretches it to serve more people.


Boil the macaroni as directed on the package; drain.

While the macaroni's cooking, melt the butter in a medium saucepan; as soon as it's bubbling, quickly stir in the flour until it's thoroughly mixed. Add about a cup of milk and stir again. (This is a white sauce, in case you're wondering.) Turn the heat down to simmer, add the spices and slowly stir in the cheese. Keep stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted and the sauce has thickened nicely. Add more milk if the mixture is too thick.

Dump the macaroni into the sauce. (Or spray a casserole dish, and dump all in there.) Stir until mixed. Eat right then or there...or bake at 350 degrees for 30 min., if you like your mac & cheese crusty. Serves 4, with enough leftovers to scrape out of the dish late at night.

(more mac & cheese recipes here, courtesy of the Food Network)

Flat-Broke Food: The Beginning

Ok, it's not an official holiday. But when every April 15 rolls around (or, in this case, April 17), doesn't your bank account feel just a tad empty?

In honor of this infamous day, we're going to feature dishes that are easy to make, inexpensive and just plain tasty. Join us all week, and fatten up your wallet!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter Week: Really Quick Cinnamon Roll Bunnies

Yes, Easter is tomorrow. If your energy's short and schedule is crowded, you've still got plenty of time to whip up these cute Easter bunnies, using a tube of cinnamon rolls. HAPPY EASTER!

 Cinnamon Roll Bunnies Recip
  • Prep/Total Time: 30 min.
  • Yield: 4 Servings
20 10 30
  • 1 tube (12.4 ounces) refrigerated cinnamon roll dough
  • 12 M&M's miniature baking bits
  • 4 pink jelly beans
  • 24 pieces black shoestring licorice (1 inch)
  • 1 drop red food coloring
  • Brown decorating gel or color of your choice


  • Separate dough into eight rolls. Place four rolls on a greased baking sheet. Using a 2-in. biscuit cutter, cut 3/4 in. into both sides of remaining rolls to form ears and bow ties. Place ears at the top and a bow tie below each cinnamon roll; pinch to attach. Slightly flatten rolls.
  • Bake at 400° for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside 1-1/2 teaspoons icing. Spread remaining icing over bunnies. Place a baking bit in the center of each bow tie; add remaining baking bits for eyes. Place a jelly bean in each center for nose; attach licorice pieces for whiskers.
  • Tint reserved icing pink with red food coloring; pipe mouths and outline ears. Pipe edges of bow ties with decorating gel. Yield: 4 servings.

(Thanks to Taste of Home for sharing this recipe. More here.)

Easter Week: Springtime Quiche

Eggs are on sale right now -- use them to make a quiche that's just as pretty to look at as it is to eat. 



(A packaged or frozen crust may be substituted if time's short)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup cold Land O Lakes® Butter
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
3 to 4 tablespoons cold water


6 slices crisply cooked bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 pound fresh asparagus spears
4 ounces (1 cup) shredded Cheddar cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper


Heat oven to 375°F. Combine flour and salt in medium bowl; cut in butter with pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in chives and enough water just until flour is moistened. (Mixture will be crumbly.) Shape into ball; flatten slightly.

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface into 12-inch circle. Fold into quarters. Place dough into ungreased 10-inch quiche pan; unfold, pressing firmly against bottom and sides. Trim crust to 1/2 inch from edge of pan. Crimp or flute edge of crust.

Sprinkle bacon over bottom of crust. Cut half of asparagus into 1-inch lengths; cut remaining asparagus into 4-inch lengths.

Combine 1-inch asparagus pieces, cheese, half & half, eggs, salt and pepper in medium bowl. Pour over crust. Place 4-inch asparagus spears in random pattern on top of egg mixture. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden and set in center. Let stand 10 minutes before serving. Serve warm. 

(Thanks to Land o'Lakes for sharing this recipe. Find it here.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter Week: Bunny Cake

A bunny cake, with no fancy pans? Yes, thanks to this easy recipe from McCormick's -- and some careful trimming of a regular 9 x 13 cake. Nice for a birthday celebration, too.

Prep Time: 45 minutes

1 cooled 13x9-inch cake
McCormick® Assorted NEON! Food Colors and Egg Dye
1 to 2 containers white or vanilla frosting
1 package (14 ounces) flaked coconut
Assorted candies, such as jelly beans, gumdrops, marshmallows and licorice strings (for decorating)

1. Cut cake as shown in diagram. Cut out small circle from scraps for the tail, or use a marshmallow.

2. Assemble cake to form a bunny shape. Stir about 7 drops of desired Neon color into frosting.  Spread tinted frosting on cake. Tint coconut the same color as frosting (see Tip). Gently pat onto frosted cake. Sprinkle Neon Green-tinted coconut around bottom of bunny for grass effect. (If desired coconut may be omitted.)

3. Use jelly beans, gumdrops and licorice strings for the eye, nose and mouth.
To tint coconut:
For Cake: Place about 2 cups flaked coconut in resealable plastic bag. Squeeze 5 or 6 drops of desired Neon color into bag, using more or less until desired color is achieved. Shake until color is evenly distributed.

For Grass: Place about 1 cup flaked coconut in resealable plastic bag. Squeeze 5 drops of green Neon Food Color into bag. Shake until color is evenly distributed.

                                                            Bunny Cake Diagram
(Thanks, McCormick's, for sharing! See the full page recipe here.)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Easter Week: Slick Chick Cupcakes

Cutie-pie cupcakes like these are easier to make than you think, thanks to donut holes...and candy corn! They're even simple enough for little helpers to participate.


Makes 12 (1 cupcake) servings.
Prep Time: 30 minutes

1 container (16 ounces) vanilla frosting
McCormick® Assorted Food Colors and Egg Dye
2 cups flaked coconut
12 unfrosted cupcakes
12 plain donut holes
12 pieces candy corn or 6 orange jelly beans, halved lengthwise
Miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips


1. Tint frosting yellow, using 18 drops yellow food color. Place coconut in resealable plastic bag. Add 12 drops yellow food color to coconut in bag; shake until coconut is evenly tinted.

2. Spread top of each cupcake with tinted frosting. Press opposite sides of each cupcake into tinted coconut. Spread donut holes with remaining frosting. Press a donut hole into top of each cupcake to form the chick’s head.

3. Press coconut on top of the head for feathers. Insert a candy corn or jelly bean half into the face for the beak. Use the chocolate chips for the eyes.

Test Kitchen Tip: For ease in frosting donut holes, first insert small wooden skewer into donut. Use skewer as a handle when frosting donut. Invert frosted donut onto cupcake then remove skewer.

(Thanks, McCormick's! Full page recipe is here.)

Easter Week: Orange-Glazed Ham & Potato Gratin

Ham has become a traditional part of many Easter dinners, in part because of its timing. Farm families who butchered hogs usually did so in the fall, then smoked their bacon and ham to last through the winter. There was usually a bit of ham left by the time Easter rolled around. (This from a farmer's daughter, who saw the pattern repeated for many seasons...)

This version of baked ham is easy to do (ten minutes!), and makes good use of a tangy orange glaze. Serve the potato dish alongside to soak up the savory juices.


Makes 8 servings.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon McCormick® Mustard, Ground
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 ready-to-eat boneless ham (3 pounds)
3 oranges, sliced thin
McCormick® Cloves, Whole

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix brown sugar, mustard, orange peel and orange juice in small bowl.

2. Place ham in large foil-lined roasting pan. Place orange slices on ham. Push whole cloves into orange slices and ham.

3. Bake 1 hour, brushing with sugar mixture during the last 30 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before slicing. Serve with:


Makes 6 servings.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes

4 medium potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon McCormick® Thyme Leaves
1/2 teaspoon McCormick® Garlic Salt
1/8 teaspoon McCormick® White Pepper, Ground
4 ounces (1/2 of 8-ounce package) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Toss potatoes with melted butter, thyme, garlic salt and white pepper in medium bowl.

2. Mix cream cheese and cream until well blended. Layer 1/3 of potato mixture in 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Spread 1/2 of the cream cheese mixture evenly over potatoes. Repeat layers, ending with potatoes. Mix Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs in small bowl. Sprinkle over potatoes. Cover with foil.

3. Bake 40 minutes. Remove foil. Bake 15 minutes longer or until potatoes are tender and top is golden brown.

(These recipes are courtesy of McCormick's -- see the full pages here and here.)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Easter Week: Italian Easter Egg Bread Ring

Why are baked goods so important to Easter? Perhaps because the air is still a tad brisk...or breads are a holiday goodie anyone can afford to make.
   Whatever the reason, here's another traditional Easter bread, adapted from an Italian recipe. It's chockful of fruit and nuts; the colored hard-boiled eggs add a festive touch.



  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup mixed candied fruit
  • 1/3 cup chopped blanched almonds
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seed
  • 2 tablespoons melted shortening
  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 tablespoon whole milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 tablespoons multicolored sprinkles (jimmies)


  1. Color the 5 eggs with egg dye. In a large mixing bowl, blend the white sugar, salt, and yeast well with 1 cup of the flour.
  2. In a saucepan, combine 2/3 cup milk and butter, heating slowly until liquid is warm and butter is melted. Pour the milk into the dry ingredients and beat 125 strokes with a wooden spoon. Add eggs and 1/2 cup flour or enough to make a thick batter. Beat vigorously for 2 minutes. Stir in enough flour to make a ball of dough that draws away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Turn out onto a floured board and knead for about 10 minutes, working in additional flour to overcome stickiness. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and put in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  4. Meanwhile, combine the fruit, nuts, and anise seed.
  5. Punch down the dough and return it to a lightly floured board. Knead in the fruit mixture, keeping the syrupy pieces dusted with flour until they are worked into the dough. Divide the dough in half.
  6. Carefully roll each piece into a 24-inch rope--the fruit and nuts will make this slightly difficult. Loosely twist the two ropes together and form a ring on a greased baking sheet. Pinch the ends together well. Brush the dough with melted shortening. Push aside the twist to make a place for each egg. Push eggs down carefully as far as possible. Cover the bread with wax paper and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
  7. Bake the bread in a preheated 350 degree F (175 degrees C) oven for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in a twist comes out clean. Place on a wire rack to cool.
  8. Once the bread is cool, drizzle the icing on top between the eggs, and decorate with colored sprinkles. To make icing: mix together confectioners' sugar, 1 tablespoon whole milk, and vanilla.                                                                                                                                      (More here, thanks to

Easter Week: Hot Cross Buns

"One ha' penny, two ha' penny, hot cross buns!"

These tender little rolls have a double slash of frosting -- to represent the Cross, and the Savior who hung on it. They've been a tradition at Easter for centuries. (In fact, they go back at least to 1733 -- probably earlier!) Once you taste them, you'll see why.



  • 3/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon instant powdered milk
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 3/4 cup dried currants   (substitute raisins or cranberries, if you like)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons milk


  1. Put warm water, butter, skim milk powder, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, egg, egg white, flour, and yeast in bread maker and start on dough program.
  2. When 5 minutes of kneading are left, add currants and cinnamon. Leave in machine till double.
  3. Punch down on floured surface, cover, and let rest 10 minutes.
  4. Shape into 12 balls and place in a greased 9 x 12 inch pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place till double, about 35-40 minutes.
  5. Mix egg yolk and 2 tablespoons water. Brush on balls.
  6. Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for 20 minutes. Remove from pan immediately and cool on wire rack.
  7. To make crosses: mix together confectioners' sugar, vanilla, and milk. Brush an X on each cooled bun.

(Thanks to for sharing -- see more here.)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Easter Recipes Begin!

Welcome to the fun world of holiday cooking -- it's the perfect time to try new foods, and recreate the ones you loved as a kid.

All week, we'll be looking at popular recipes for Easter. But before we head there, 'Boiled Bunnies' that are healthy and easy to make. Kinda cute, too!

Boiled Egg Bunnies
eggbunny (15K)
  • one hard boiled egg (makes two bunnies)
  • chives
  • two small triangles of red pimento (taken from a stuffed olive), red pepper or radish for the noses
  • six small baby carrots
  • one teaspoon of mayonnaise for each bunny tail
  • knife
  • toothpick
Egg Bunnies - Instructions:
Boil an egg and let it cool. Peel, cut in half lengthwise, and place both sides on your serving plate.
   Use the pointed end for the bunny's face; cut a small hole, and insert the red pimento (nose). Insert a small slice of chive on each side for the eyes, and longer pieces for the whiskers.
   Slice three baby carrots in half lengthwise for ears; trim as needed, then insert for both ears and paws. (Use the photo for help.)
   Add a blob of mayo in the back for a tail, and serve with a smile.

For more, visit the All Free site.