Canadian Thanksgiving: Cranberry Relish

My sister and brother-in-law use two recipes at holiday time from The Commander’s Palace Cookbook:  Yams Richard and the cranberry-orange relish.  Both are amped up versions of holiday classics.  Yams Richard is an uber sweet potato casserole complete with pecans, marshmallows, butter, and, of course, that yummy Louisiana starchy vegetable roasted to syrup-oozing-out-of-the-steamholes perfection.

The cranberry orange relish, in contrast, is a tartly sweet, slightly boozy complement to the ubiquitous canned jellied cranberry sauce.  From previous experience I have seen leftover relish further blended and further booze-infused to create a cran-orange margarita or daiquiri.  Delish!

I have been buying up and freezing bags of cranberries post-holiday season in order to make this relish for Canadian Thanksgiving (otherwise as the time that occurs too early for the southern United States to stock bags of fresh cranberries).

But I should be glad that we don’t have a surveillance camera trained on the fridge in the kitchen because I have been guilty (quite a few times) of scooping out a surreptitious spoonful of relish before Monday.

It’s addictive.

And here’s what I did:

Cranberry-Orange Relish

Source:  The Commander’s Palace Cookbook

1 pound cranberries

2 oranges, peeled (peel discarded)

1 cup sugar

1 ounce rum

1 ounce orange liqueur (The recipe calls for Grand Marnier, but I don’t live on a Grand Marnier budget.  I live on a orange liqueur budget)

Blend until “relish”-sized pieces and refrigerate at least overnight.

Sample judiciously and surreptitiously.

Repeat.

Serve with turkey or on dressing/stuffing.  Serve by the spoonful in a big bowl.  Or just serve a big bowl and get out of my way!

Yes.  It’s that good.

Canadian Thanksgiving: Nanaimo Bars

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Can you identify this famous bar?

I first ate these, oddly enough, at a local restaurant.  Josh and I were newly married (pre-Muffin), and were making a rare splurge out to eat.  This is the same restaurant known for its tomato-basil soup (that…well…if you remember from the post…it definitely isn’t Le Mad’s), but they have a big to-go refrigerated case.

I had heard Josh mention (quite a few times) Nanaimo bars.  I had heard them mentioned in Corner Gas (well…Nanaimo-style Saskatchewan Bars).

I had never seen them before.  And I had never tasted them before.

I should note that, just as with the tomato-basil soup, this restaurant didn’t quite corner the market on Nanaimo Bars.  They were missing something…namely custard powder, I believe.

They were good…just not what I now know to be more Nanaimo-like…Nanaimo-esque?

So, I went on the hunt.  The site that was still then Recipezaar (now Food.com) had a large Canadian contingent.  Someone on there had to have a good Nanaimo Bar recipe.

After a few misses, I located it:  Kittencal’s Best Nanaimo Bars (No Bake).  I do make some alterations.  But, for the most part, I keep the recipe as pure as I can make it.

Nanaimo Bars

Adapted from Food.com

Bottom Layer

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup granulated sugar

5 tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened)

1 egg, beaten

1 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs (I actually purchased crumbs specifically for this)

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans (Her recipe calls for almonds)

1 cup finely chopped (“fancy” shredded) coconut

Middle Layer

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

3 scant tablespoons whipping cream

2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder (I use Bird’s brand which my sister recently informed me is available at Cost Plus World Market)

2 cups confectioner’s sugar (icing sugar to some)

Top Layer

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 tablespoon whipping cream (She says optional.  I think it’s completely necessary)

For bottom layer:  On low heat in a saucepan, melt the first three ingredients, remove from heat.  Let the saucepan cool for a few minutes.  Stir in egg to combine and thicken (I’ve not let the mixture cool and had chocolate-flavored scrambled egg before).  Stir in remaining bottom layer ingredients.

Press firmly into prepared ungreased 8×8-inch square Pyrex pan.  The mixture will be crumbly but will appear to become a solid layer once tamped down.

For the middle layer:  cream the middle layer ingredients.  I used my Kitchen Aid for the first time on this attempt and it creates a smoother product than a hand mixer.

Spread over bottom layer.  Refrigerate 10-15 minutes while preparing the top layer.

For the top layer:  microwave chips, cream, and butter for one minute.  Slowly stir or whisk together until the consistency of slightly thick chocolate syrup.

Pour evenly over the middle layer, smoothing out with a spoon, a spoonula, a spatula, or a knife if necessary.

Refrigerate 1 hour before cutting.

The recipe says it makes 16 (which would be 2×2 bars).  I would recommend much smaller squares because at over half a pound of butter, they are very rich.

This recipe is completely Muffin Approved (and the only dessert that I prepped for Thanksgiving that my mom or I would eat).

Muffin Approved

Family Heirloom Recipes: Spinach Madeleine AKA Spinach Casserole

Family Heirloom Recipes

Okay.  It’s confession time.  I hate raw spinach.  I don’t like my lettuces to be sweet…unless I am adding something sweet (dressing-wise or add-on wise) to them.

That being said…I love frozen chopped spinach (once it’s heated, of course).  I absolutely adore (formerly) frozen spinach sauteed in lightly browned and golden garlic and olive oil.  I could bathe in (and devour) a tub of creamed spinach.

My love affair with cooked spinach began well before my teen years when my mom decided to make again an old family favorite from River Road Recipes (the official cookbook of the Junior League of Baton Rouge) for Thanksgiving.  Being a child, I turned up my nose at the idea of anything called “spinach casserole.”  Forget the fact it had jalapeno cheese in it.

And then I ate at least half of the offering.  (Keep in mind:  Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners have one purpose in mind:  who cares how much you eat day of…it’s the leftovers that matter.  And I’m not talking about let’s stack all of the leftovers between two slices of bread.  I’m talking about reliving the day of with a recap of the meal…leftovers-style…for as many days as possible…if possible three times a day.)  I think, if I remember right, leftovers lasted four days.  So four days of eating spinach casserole breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Yup.  Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

It’s that good.

In recent years, it’s become a toss-up between the kicked up green bean casserole from Vintage Vicksburg which will probably be on the table at American Thanksgiving at my sister’s and making the spinach casserole (referred to formally as Spinach Madeleine).  Both are labor intensive; and the spinach casserole is a bit pricey to make.  Worth every penny as every morsel of food will be gone from the pan (in this case, a Pyrex loaf pan), but still pricey.

It all boiled down to one very key ingredient whose discontinuance almost led to the end of Spinach Madeleine (or at least a hiatus that lasted a few years)…Kraft’s Jalapeno Cheese Roll.  You see, Kraft used to make a jalapeno cheese roll with a black wrapper and a garlic cheese roll with a green wrapper.  A while back, they discontinued both…first the jalapeno cheese log and then the garlic one.

It wasn’t until I was an adult that I noticed (after pouting for years about the demise of the jalapeno cheese roll) that Kraft began making a Mexican Velveeta (insanely pricey, like most of their Velveeta has become recently).

So, I went about attempting a substitution.  And it worked…it was doable…but, it wasn’t the same.  I keep hoping the bigwigs at Kraft will hear the collective cry of those who love the recipe and bring the cheese roll back.

In making the list for Canadian Thanksgiving, I decided I needed to add it to the list.  Have you ever noticed how starchy Thanksgiving meals tend to be:  dressing or stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes of some kind, rolls of some kind, and possibly even other starches.  Yes, we always serve broccoli and cauliflower with cheese sauce (as well as the raw crudites…called relishes), but I wanted…well…I wanted an excuse to make spinach casserole.

But, here’s what I did this time:

20 ounces frozen spinach (I ended up with 12 ounce package bags…so I ended up with 24 ounces)–Make sure you get chopped!

4 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1/4 cup white onion, chopped finely

1/2 cup whipping cream (I still had some left over from truffle making a bit ago.  The original recipe calls for evaporated milk)

1/2 cup “pot likker” (made from preparing the spinach–I microwaved mine sans extra water and ended up with exactly 1/2 cup–once I squeezed the spinach in a wire mesh strainer bone dry)

1/2 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

3/4 tablespoon garlic salt

3/4 tablespoon celery salt

a dash of cayenne or red pepper, or to taste (optional)

6 ounces Mexican Velveeta, cubed

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Cook spinach according to package directions, drain, and reserve liquid.  Pour spinach into greased final baking dish (I used a loaf pan).  I microwaved two packages’ worth for 8 minutes.  In a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat.  Add onion and cook slowly until softened.  While the onion is cooking, pour the cream/milk into the pot likker.  Add flour to the butter and onion, blending until smooth, and cook about 1 minute.

Slowly add creamy pot likker, stirring constantly.  Cook until thickened and smooth (think Alfredo sauce consistency or a bit thicker).  Add seasonings and cheese.  Stir.  Pour over drained spinach into appropriate casserole dish (I used the loaf pan).  Stir to blend completely.

*At this point you would want to refrigerate for at least one day or freeze, covered in foil.  On the cooking day, bring to room temperature before baking in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes (or until hot and bubbly).

Note:  I have seen several post-Kraft-catastrophe recipe substitutions for the cheese roll.  Some use Velveeta or Cheez Whiz with cut up pickled jalapeno peppers.  Some use pepper jack.  I haven’t tried either.  In some places, a company is producing a jalapeno cheese roll clone, but it looks wrong to me, somehow.  Maybe one day I’ll try it, though.

I serve this as a big meal side dish.  I refuse to do what one of my mom’s coworkers once suggested when Mom brought the casserole to a work holiday potluck:  use it as a spinach dip for chips or crackers.

That still causes my stomach to curl in on itself.  Almost as the thought of the newest Pinterest pumpkin monstrosity does:  pumpkin rice.

Here was the casserole (before baking):

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It’s all I can do not to go invade and conquer the loaf pan in the fridge right now.

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving, everyone!  :)

Meal Plan Monday: The Canadian Thanksgiving Edition

Meal Plan Monday

Meal Plan Monday for this week is kind of a joke.  It’s a game of “how long can we make the Thanksgiving leftovers last?”

Josh was on call this last week, so the weekend ended with Muffin and me playing catch meals as catch can.

Here’s what the plan is for the week:

Saturday:  Muffin had hot dogs; I had leftover taco meat and toppings.

Sunday:  Meatball Sub Casserole, baby kale and brussels sprouts casserole

Monday:  Canadian Thanksgiving:  turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing/dressing, gravy, broccoli and cauliflower with cheese sauce, spinach madeleine, Yams Richard, green bean casserole, jellied cranberry sauce, cranberry-orange relish, rolls, relishes (raw veg) and dip, tea, soda, cran-raspberry ginger ale punch, pumpkin pie, Nanaimo bars

Tuesday:  leftovers

Wednesday:  leftovers

Thursday:  hopefully leftovers; if not turkey and gravy over toast or breakfast for dinner (waffles or pancakes)

Friday:  out to eat for my birthday

Saturday:  grilled burgers

Sunday:  chicken with basil cream sauce, rice, gravy

Hopefully the leftovers will last through Thursday.

Have I mentioned today how much I love leftovers?

What’s on your meal plan for this week?

Meatball Sub Casserole

As I posted on Facebook earlier, I guess I needed to cook an actual dinner.  Josh managed to eke an hour for dinner out of his work schedule, and he gave me VERY.  LITTLE.  NOTICE.  Luckily, I pulled out what I had originally planned for yesterday:  the meatball sub casserole from Big Oven and a kale-and-brussel-sprouts salad kit (from Sam’s for only $1.29…not a reduced produce item price).

I didn’t realize this, but this casserole goes together to go into the oven in just under 10 minutes (It probably would have been fewer if I hadn’t gotten frustrated in the rush to have everything ready) and then into the oven for 30 minutes (27 at 350 degress and 3 at an open-door broil).

Muffin loved this…he loves anything with meatballs.

There was one small problem:  we had spaghetti and meatballs not too long ago, so we didn’t have quite a full pound of meatballs.  I added a few cut up bits of breakfast sausage from breakfast this morning.  I thought it was great, but Josh thought that maple sausage didn’t really go with the mix.  He thought a not-maple variety would have worked, however.

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By the way…guess who didn’t follow the recipe exactly?  Me.

Meatball Sub Casserole

5 slices Texas toast, toasted (I used Kroger brand, but Sunbeam would also be great)

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon each salt, pepper (freshly ground), basil, oregano, and parsley

1 (28 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce (I used Classico’s Cheesy Spinach Florentine…it was yummy!)

1 cup water

1 pound frozen precooked meatballs, thawed (or zapped in the microwave for a minute from frozen…you may add chunks of sausage, too)

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In an ungreased 9×13 pan, arrange slices of toast.  I had to cut up a few of the pieces to make them fit.

In a bowl, combine cream cheese, mayonnaise, and the seasonings.  Spread the mixture over the bread.  Cover with 1/2 cup of the shredded mozzarella.

In a larger bowl, combine the meatballs (and sausage, if using), spaghetti sauce, and water.  I poured the water into the spaghetti sauce jar when I emptied it, lidded the jar, shook it, and was able to get out most of the tomatoey bits.

Slather the sauce and the meat over the layers in the pan.  Cover with remaining shredded mozza.

Bake, uncovered, for 27 minutes.  In the last three minutes, turn the heat up to broil to brown the cheese a bit.

Serve with something green to feel wholesome.

This recipe, if the ingredients are in-house, goes from start to oven in fewer than ten minutes.  That’s a very important recipe to have in your arsenal.  If you make homemade meatballs and freeze them, the good-for-you factor is upped by a lot.

Muffin Approved

What is a quick, go-to recipe for you?

Cent-Saving Saturday: The Canadian Thanksgiving Edition

Cent Saving Saturday

Well…it’s about that time.  I’m actually writing this entry in the wee hours of Friday morning because the cooking blitz (that was supposed to begin last weekend) is going to begin shortly, and I figure I will have no time to write it on Saturday.

The sales at home this week are “meh.”  There are a few things I’m going to purchase, but as this isn’t a major holiday week in the U.S. (other than the very forgotten Columbus Day), I figured I would resurrect my efforts at posting the Canadian specials.

Kroger

organic gala apples 99 cents/pound

Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, or 7-Up 2 L $1 each wyb 6

(I also hope to procure the remaining three ingredients–pumpkin pie, carrots, and green onions–at Kroger)

Albertson’s

7-Up, Sunkist, Canada Dry 2 L 79 cents with coupon (limit 6)

Jif peanut butter $1.49 with coupon (limit 4)

Gold medal flour 3/$5

Pepsi, Mountain Dew 24 pack 12 ounce cans $4.99 wyb 6 participating items

Chef Boyardee cups or cans 79 cents wyb 6 participating items

Now, for the Canadian sales.  I begin with Foodland (because they still send me their e-flyer)

Foodland

Buy 1 Maple Leaf Bacon, get a dozen of eggs free (so both for $4.99)

Buy 1 10-inch apple or pumpkin pie at $6.99, get a 2 L of either chocolate or vanilla ice cream free

Jumbo red, black, or green seedless grapes (or red globe grapes) $1.49/pound

Christie (the equivalent of Nabisco) crackers–including Ritz and Wheat Thins $1.99/box

Compliments refrigerated crescent roll can $1.49

No-Frills

Maple Leaf Bacon $2.47

Simply Orange (juice) 1.75 L $1.97

red seedless grapes 97 cents/pound

Coke or Pepsi 2 L 97 cents

Nestle or Mars chocolate bars 67 cents

Christie cookies (including Oreo and Chips Ahoy) $1.67

Heinz tomato juice 1 L 97 cents

whole tilapia $1.97/pound

gala apples 77 cents/pound

Food Basics

Selection bacon $1.97

royal gala apples 88 cents/pound

celery stalk 88 cents each

cantaloupe 88 cents each

Selection tortillas 99 cents

sweet potatoes 88 cents/pound

tomatoes 88 cents/pound

pineapple $1.88 each

cranberries, package $1.88 each

pomegranates 2/$3

canned beans 77 cents

pies (including pumpkin) $3.99

Fresh Co.

Compliments fresh cranberries, bag $1.77

asparagus $1.77/pound

D’Angelo Vegetable Oil 3 L $2.97 (limit 4)

Heinz tomato juice 1 L 99 cents

Stove Top stuffing 99 cents

Gay Lea sour cream, 500 mL $1.49

Betty Crocker cake mix 99 cents

Pillsbury crescents canned and refrigerated $1.25

Ontario tomatoes on the vine 79 cents/pound

Ontario seedless cucumbers 79 cents/each

celery stalk 79 cents each

3 pound bag onions 99 cents

4 pack sweet bell peppers (orange/red) $1.99

Italian plums 99 cents/pound

5 pound bag sweet potatoes $2.49

Sobey’s

(home of the only place I could find 12 packs of Canada Dry green tea ginger ale)

pineapple $1.99

asparagus $1.99/pound

Coke or Pepsi 12 pack cans $3.33 (I wonder if this includes the Canada Dry green tea ginger ale)

Classico pasta sauce $1.99

Romaine hearts, package of 3 $2.99

HP sauce $3.99 (Sadly…this is cheaper than we can find it down here…think A1 with lots of tamarind flavor)

Compliments perogies 1 kg $1.99 (Frozen)

Walmart

Turkey 79 cents/pound

Stove Top stuffing 79 cents/pound

Romaine hearts 3 pack $1.97

The sales in Canada win it for this week.

Funny Muffin Friday: Muffin in Camu

Funny Muffin Friday

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I’ve become a bit of a Camu fanatic.  I like the different color gradations that are available.  And Muffin (sleeping) makes such a sweet subject.  Of course, here he is in classic black and white the day of the football jamboree.

IMG_0007To me, that is just the most beautiful picture.  Of my beautiful, energetic boy!

I tried to keep this as nearly wordless as possible.