Cook’s Corner

Sunflower crackers reminiscent of cheese straws



Cheesy Sun Crisps

2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Cheddar cheese

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup (1 stick) margarine or butter, softened

1 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup uncooked quick oats

2/3 cup roasted, salted sunflower kernels

Beat cheeses, margarine and 3 tablespoons water in large bowl until well blended. Add flour and salt; mix well. Stir in oats and sunflower kernels; mix until well combined.

Shape dough into a 12-inch-long roll, and wrap securely in plastic film. Refrigerate about 4 hours (dough may be stored up to 1 week in refrigerator).

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets. Cut roll into 1/8 to 1/4-inch thick slices; flatten each slice slightly. Place on prepared cookie sheets about 1/2 inch apart. Bake 8 to 9 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Remove immediately and cool on wire rack. Makes 5 dozen crackers.

Per cracker: 49 calories (57 percent from fat), 3.2 g fat (1.2 g saturated, 1.2 g monounsaturated), 4.5 mg cholesterol, 1.8 g protein, 3.4 g carbohydrates, 0.3 g fiber, 71 mg sodium.


Pumpkin Cupcakes

4 eggs, slightly beaten

3/4 cup oil

2 cups sugar

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

3/4 teaspoon ground ginger

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon salt

Orange Cream Cheese Frosting

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened

1 tablespoon orange juice

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons dried, grated orange peel

4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place paper liners in muffin tins.

Blend the eggs, oil, sugar, and pumpkin in a large mixing bowl; set aside. Stir together dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and beat just until blended. Pour into prepared tins, filling about 2/3 full. Bake 30 minutes or until center springs back when touched. Cool 30 minutes.

To make frosting, beat cream cheese and butter until fluffy. Add remaining ingredients and beat until smooth. Spread over cooled cupcakes. Makes 32.

Per cupcake: 220 calories (37 percent from fat), 9.3 g fat (2.8 g saturated, 2.1 g monounsaturated), 34 g cholesterol, 2.2 g protein, 32.8 g carbohydrates, 0.7 g fiber, 153 mg sodium.

Side Dish

Ruth’s Chris Steak House Sweet Potato Casserole

For the crust:

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup flour

3/4 cup chopped pecans

1/4 cup butter, melted

Sweet potato mixture:

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups mashed sweet potatoes (2 large potatoes, boiled or microwaved until tender)

1 egg, well beaten

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the crust ingredients with a fork in a small bowl and set aside.

Combine the sugar, salt, vanilla, mashed sweet potatoes, egg and butter in a mixing bowl, and beat thoroughly. Pour into buttered quart-size baking dish.

Sprinkle the crust mixture evenly on top, and bake 30 minutes. Allow to set for at least 30 minutes before serving. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 724 calories (47 percent from fat), 39 g fat (16.3 g saturated, 14.8 g monounsaturated), 108 mg cholesterol, 6 g protein, 93 g carbohydrates, 3.7 g fiber, 379 mg sodium.

Sleuth’s Corner

Q. Back in the mid 1950s, my mother made Johnny Cakes from a Flako or Jiffy mix. The recipe was on the box and you substituted molasses for milk. They were wonderful. I would love to make this for my grandson. Can anyone help?

Nancy Girton

Marlene asked for help finding a recipe for a healthy snack she baked in the early 1990s, a cheese cracker made with sunflower seeds and oats. She was tickled that her brother remembered those crackers and wanted to make them again.

“I didn’t think anyone but me still made homemade crackers,” said Jean Quick of Fayetteville, N.C.

Sandy Oulette had a similar response: “I am so happy to know there’s someone else out there who enjoys the challenge of making crackers. My friends all think I’m crazy. But it is something I learned to enjoy when snowed in, before I started coming south from my home in Nova Scotia to Florida for the winter.”

I enjoyed trying out the recipe here, which Oulette says came from a booklet she got from the National Sunflower Association. It is not as daunting as homemade graham crackers, and is more like making Southern cheese straws.

Q. I have never tasted sweet potatoes as delicious as the ones at Ruth’s Chris Steak Houses. Can you get the recipe? I’d love to put it on the Thanksgiving table.


Ah, the bliss of sweet potatoes, butter, pecans and sugar. This sweet potato casserole has been on the Ruth’s Chris menu for nearly 50 years. (If you are streamlining your Thanksgiving, you can buy family-sized portions at the restaurant.) You can double this recipe and bake in an 8-inch square casserole.

Tried and New

I still love cookbooks and treasure old paper recipe cards, but I have gotten spoiled by being able to look up recipes quickly — even the ones from my own column — online. So I was eager to try an iPad/tablet cooking stand made from sustainably grown bamboo that props up the tablet for clear viewing. A see-through plastic shield allows you to tap and type without smearing the screen. The stand measures 9 1/2 by 10 1/2 inches and is available at for $29.95.

Pumpkin cupcakes

I love pumpkin and think it’s too bad that it’s pigeonholed as a fall flavor. The recipe here from Spice Islands for pumpkin cupcakes, nicely complemented by orange cream cheese frosting, is one you’ll want to make year round.

Send questions and responses to or Food, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132. Personal replies are not possible.

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