Monday, February 19, 2007

It's Fake-Off Time, People

The Bake-Off Returns!

It's that time of year again – time for home cooks everywhere to figure out what in heavens name to roll up in one of those soggy refridgerated dough triangles in the hopes of winning a cool mil (a good portion of which will undoubtedly go toward replenishing their stock of felt-appliqued sweatshirts and necklaces strung with painted wooden beads). This most famous off all brand-sponsored cooking competitions will culminate in Big D this year, and, Lord knows, we're no strangers to the bland, mushy and/or shredded-cheese-topped.

Why, oh why, must the Bake-Off always showcase such plain Jane recipes, uninteresting by design so as to be inoffensive to all members of the family? I would bet my red “Will Cook For Sex” apron that this doesn't have to be the case! Just a quick glance at the "Eligible Products" led me to believe that deliciously innovative concoctions (or ridiculously easy and entertaining craft projects) were just waiting to be invented. They may not be contest-winners, but believe you me, your friends and family will thank you for these “Fake-Off” recipes.

1) Chilaquiles - hangover cure extraordinaire

The traditional Mexican hangover cure is a polarizing soup called menudo (tripe, anyone?), but in my opinion, nothing does the trick like this cheesy, spicy casserole topped with a fried egg. Serve it for dinner if you like, garnished with chopped black olives and green onions. Another note: this recipe is incredibly flexible, so feel free to experiment with different types of cheeses, meats, beans and salsas.

2 cups tomato sauce
1 cup Old El Paso Thick n' Chunky Salsa (or your favorite)
½ cup water

2 boxes Old El Paso taco shells or equal amount tortilla chips (about 12 oz.), crushed slightly
1 pint sour cream or lite sour cream
2 cups shredded Mexican-style cheddar cheese blend
1 cup cooked chicken, chopped or 1 cup browned ground beef
or 1 can black beans, rinsed (or a combination of any of the three)

1 cup tomatillo salsa (green salsa, availalble next to the regular ones at the store)
1 egg per serving

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine tomato sauce, salsa and water. Spread 1/3 of sauce in bottom of a medium-sized casserole dish. Top with half of crushed shells or chips. Dollop half of sour cream at equal intervals on top of chips and sprinkle with half the cheese. Spread another 1/3 of sauce over cheese. Equally distribute meat and beans, if using. Layer on remaining chips and sour cream. Finish with remaining sauce, then cheese. Bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Remove casserole from oven and let sit at room temperature while preparing eggs and tomatillo salsa, below.

Fry one egg per person to be served in a dry non-stick skillet, season with salt and pepper to taste (sunny side up for a soft yolk or over easy). Warm tomatillo salsa in a small saucepan over medium heat or microwave for approximately 1 minute. For each serving, place a small amount of tomatillo salsa on plate, place a square of chilaquiles casserole on the sauce and top with a fried egg.

Casserole yields 6 large or 8 small servings.

2) Salty Balls...Are they like Schwetty's? You be the judge.

1 roll refridgerated sugar cookie dough
¾ cup all-purpose flour
6 oz. Honey-roasted peanuts
½ cup sugar
3 tbsp table salt

Preheat oven to 350.

Finely chop peanuts, either by hand or in food processor. Combine cookie dough, all-purpose flour, and chopped nuts with hands. Mixture will be stiff.

Form into balls with hands, roughly 3/4” in diameter. Spray balls with non-stick spray, being sure to coat thuroughly. Combine sugar and salt, and roll each ball in the mixture.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, until very lightly browned and still somewhat soft in the center. Sprinkle with additional sugar/salt mixture while warm.

Yield approximately 30 balls

3) Butter Faces - fun craft project for the whole family!

Bake up a batch of Grand's Butter Tastin' biscuits and let the fun begin! Create a motley crew of Butter Faces (so ugly they're cute!) by decorating the biscuits with Smucker's squeezable jams and jellys, cake sprinkles, chopped nuts - the possibilities are endless. See photo.

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