Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Praline Crescent Dessert

Call them what you will: These are GOOD!
Of all the Time Capsule recipes I’ve prepared to date, this one seems the most likely candidate to not only have been loved by a child, but to have been developed by one, too. I mean, look at that ingredient list: crisp rice cereal, coconut, crescent rolls … add some marshmallow fluff and bubble gum ice cream, and you’ve reached an 8-year-old’s version of nirvana.
If not created by a child, then perhaps it was developed on a dare. It’s like Iron Chef drove the DeLorean back to 1985: Your ingredients are margarine, pecans and powdered sugar. Go! (And don’t forget, we want to be able to garnish it with whipped cream!)
How many ingredients do you have in your pantry right now?
I pride myself on being able to have a good idea of what a recipe will look and taste like before I start preparing it. This one, however, was perplexing from start to finish, no doubt thanks to the “Dessert” in the title. The first step was to prepare a simple caramel by melting the margarine and brown sugar. The addition of the sour cream to the caramel added a nice tangy bite that helped balance the overwhelming sweetness of the remaining ingredients.
 Next, the crescent rolls (love those crescent rolls!) are pressed into muffin cups and filled with a sweetened cream-cheese filling. Finally, they’re topped with the cereal, nuts and coconut, which you’ve coated in the caramel, like a Rice Krispie Treat died and went to heaven.
The filling reminds me a little of German Chocolate Cake frosting.
During the Dessert’s quick stint in the oven, the kitchen filled with a wonderful, sugary, bread-y, coconutty aroma, Out of the oven, they were beautiful, if still a mystery. The cereal looked like it retained some of its crunch, as did the nuts and, to a lesser extent, the coconut. The crescent rolls, golden brown and puffy (love those crescent rolls!), enveloped all that sugary goo like the true supermarket champions they are.  
And, first bite: Oh thank you, prepackaged food gods. “Dessert” may be a misnomer, but frankly, who cares what this is called?  It’s like a pecan pie and cheese Danish got married and decided to honeymoon on a crescent roll. SOOOOOOO good and gooey and sticky and chewy and just altogether a wonderful surprise.  
So in case it isn’t obvious by now: I am an 8-year-old at heart, and I bet you are, too. So go on, roll out the pantry staples and run to the grocery if you have to. I dare you not to love this one.
Golden brown and hot out of the oven.

Praline Crescent Dessert

1/3 cup Parkay margarine or butter
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons dairy sour cream
1 cup crisp rice cereal
½ cup chopped pecans or nuts
½ cup coconut
8-oz. can Pillsbury Refrigerated Quick Crescent Dinner Rolls
3-oz. package Philadelphia Brand cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Heat oven to 375-degrees. In small saucepan, over low heat, melt margarine. Add brown sugar; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add sour cream; cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat. Add cereal, nuts and coconut; stir to coat evenly. Separate dough into 8 triangles. Press each triangle to cover bottom and sides of ungreased muffin cups. Combine cheese and powdered sugar. Spread rounded teaspoonful over bottom of each cup. Spoon heaping tablespoonful cereal mixture into each cup.

Bake at 375-degrees for 11 to 16 minutes until deep golden brown. Serve topped with whipped cream, if desired. Store in refrigerator. 8 servings.

An ooey-gooey treat.

·      I found the whipping cream to be overkill, but you may feel differently, especially if you do choose to serve these as an après-supper treat.
·      You’re missing out if you’re not in the kitchen RIGHT NOW preparing these. Don’t be a snob – just go.

Why Don’t You …
·      Serve these with breakfast or brunch? As much as it is possible – if not advisable – to eat these around the clock, I think they would really come into their own served with some savory morning dishes to balance their awesome sweetness. I’m telling you right now, you will need to double the recipe.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Spicy Apple Muffins

There’s spicy and then there’s spicy, and these muffins land somewhere on the mild, but delicious, side of that definition (and decade, for that matter).
The best way to date this recipe for Spicy Apple Muffins comes from the reverse side of the yellowed newspaper it’s been cut out of. Ads for a nearby oceanfront resort trumpet an amazing new attraction: The Jacuzzi! Walt Disney’s animated Robin Hood is playing at local theaters. And, yes, speaking of spicy: Totally Nude Girls are Live on Stage. Narrow it down? Yes, it’s 1983!
             Courtesy of my daughter’s first name, we’re always at the top of the alphabetically ordered list for providing classroom snack. Far be it from me to supply a week’s worth of junk. (I’ll wait ‘til at least Wednesday to bring in the Goldfish, thank you very much.) Enter Spicy Apple Muffins, a wholesome and seasonally appropriate treat.
            These are straightforward muffins, and quick to prepare. I like the whole-wheat flour and chunks of apple. Though usually not a huge fan of Golden Delicious, these worked well – some chunks melted nicely into the batter, and some retained a little bite. The fall aroma of apple and spice is always so comforting. The recipe notes that these would be delicious served with quiche, and that’s probably true, but they’re yummy any time of day.
            Spicy, however, they are not. The blend of cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg is pleasing, but meek. I would bump the quantities up by at least a ¼ teaspoon each. Then you’ll be on par with Jacuzzis, and Disney foxes.
Spicy Apple Muffins

1-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ cup whole wheat flour
1 egg
1 cup skimmed milk
1/3 cup melted shortening or vegetable oil
1 medium Golden Delicious apple, peeled and diced

1.     Sift all-purpose flour, measure and resift with salt, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and sugar. Combine with brown sugar and whole wheat flour.
2.     Beat egg; add milk and melted shortening or oil. Combine with dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened. Add diced apple.
3.     Fill greased muffin (tin) 2/3 full. Bake at 400-degrees 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly golden. Makes 12 muffins.

·      I added ¼ teaspoon each of ground ginger and ground cloves. I would go higher next time.
·      Mini muffins took 8-9 minutes in my oven, and produced about 30 muffins.

Why Don’t You …
Add ½ cup of chopped walnuts or pecans to the batter?
·      Add an apple-cider glaze? Add apple cider to confectioners’ sugar until it’s thin enough to drizzle.
·      Or what about topping with an easy streusel? Mash together softened butter and brown sugar – and nuts, if you haven’t already put them in the batter – until crumbly.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Meat Roll Ups

You may not believe me, but I'll let you in on a secret: refrigerated biscuits were my first love.  At the tender age of three, I was slapping raw rounds of pre-sliced dough into a greased cake pan, and staring through the oven door, counting down the minutes ‘til those hot flaky goodies were on my plate.

So cute!
Although I make my share of homemade bread, I cannot deny my undying love of a buttery crescent roll – sweet vessel of chemical yeastiness that it is. I love the anticipation – like waiting for a firework to burst – as you slowly, slowly, slowly unwrap the paper from the canister until it explodes.  I love how the biscuits are perfectly pre-perforated, like the Pillsbury Doughboy himself has been busy with the kitchen shears inside the tube.

This recipe, a cut-out from an unnamed magazine, starts like so many relics of the 80's, with the immortal words: “Brown ground beef and soup mix in a skillet.” (Ah, sweet dreams of Hamburger Helper!) And though the name shows a singular lack of imagination, its mission is clear: Improve on the already-perfect crescent roll by stuffing it with beef, cheese and onion soup mix. I'm in!

Hungry already, aren't you?
Although browning the beef and soup mix was a sensory delight, patting miniscule dabs of beefy cheese filling onto half a triangle of flabby dough did not for a relaxing weeknight meal-prep make. I wish there was a photo with this recipe, because I’m fairly certain these tidbits were meant as an appetizer. I mean, when was the last time you halved a crescent roll? I know this is the millennium of excess, but still, I think, cocktail hour or no, we could all probably eat more than half a biscuit.

I wish computers had scratch-n-sniff.
After rolling 16 of these teeny tiny “pigs in blanket”-style cocktail weenies, I decided to super size. The full-size crescent roll holds about 1 T. of filling and you don’t need 20 of them to make a meal. They’re not as cute as the little piggies – I mean, I almost cooed when the babies came out of the oven, all golden brown and perfectly adorable.  But then the thought of rolling another 32 dropkicked me back to reality.

Taste-wise, these don't disappoint. The crescent roll is buttery and flaky, and creates a nice crust around the seasoned meat and cheese.  But they’re shockingly unsubstantial. I ate three big ones, and only consumed 3 T. of meat. Total. They’re cute as a button and easy to boot, but you’ll want to save them for a pre-dinner nosh. I’ve got 16 of them headed for my freezer, so if you stop by at cocktail hour, you know what I’ll be serving.

Meat Roll Ups
Mom (bottom) and babies (top).
1 pound lean ground beef
1 envelope onion soup mix
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
3 8-ounce packages refrigerated crescent rolls

Combine beef and soup mix in skillet and cook over medium-high heat until meat is browned. Drain off any excess fat. Stir in cheese and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 375-degrees. Roll out dough. Cut each crescent in half, making 16 triangles from each package. Place a heaping teaspoonful of meat mixture on each triangle and roll to enclose. Place on ungreased cookie sheet, tucking point of dough under roll. Bake 13 to 15 minutes. Serve warm, or let cool and freeze. To serve after freezing, warm in preheated 325-degree oven for 10-15 minutes.

·      I found it helpful to mound the beef mixture onto one end of the dough before rolling – squeezing into a sausage shape, almost.
·      These would be good dipped into marinara.
·      The super size version takes 15 minutes in the oven, and about 1T. of filling.
·      Goodness, is powdered onion soup mix a salt bomb. If there is a low-sodium version of this helper, I’d be on-board. Otherwise, have a pitcher of water nearby.

Why Don’t You …
·      Take the recipe’s direction and freeze a batch of these for an impromptu get-together. Think how glamorous you’ll feel when an unannounced guest arrives, and you mosey over to the deep freeze: “What? These scrumptious things? Why, I whipped them up ages ago!”