Saturday is Dia de Los Muertos, celebrated in Mexico, throughout Central America and increasingly in the United States with family gatherings and parties centered on the activities, food and drink that the dead enjoyed in life.
Chef Pati Jinich, host of PBS’ Pati’s Mexican Table, grew up in Mexico and has made a career of teaching Mexico’s culture, history and traditions through cooking. She shared the recipe here for pumpkin flan, perfect for anytime this fall. You can watch Jinich making the flan at YouTube.
Macaroni and Cheese
Q. Years ago, Kraft Deluxe Macaroni & Cheese had a baked recipe on the back of their box that had sour cream, milk and cheese on top and it baked for 20 minutes. I lost my recipe. Could you help me? It was so good and easy.
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Sharon K. Ellis, Elyria, Ohio
A. I have a very similar recipe I took away from a school potluck about 10 years ago because I couldn’t believe it had started with the familiar blue box. People were scraping the last bites out of the casserole dish.
This one has a couple of added ingredients to the one you remember — cream cheese and bread crumbs, and suggestions for even more — but if you’re going to doctor up a box, why not go all in?
Your article about Dilly Casserole Bread reminded me of my mom. She used to bake breads at this time of year using just about any kind of vegetable available. There was dill bread, tomato bread, zucchini bread, pumpkin, butternut and anything else she could find at the grocer’s.
She was a child of the Depression and didn’t have bread pans, but made her own with empty coffee cans or number 10 tins from juice cans. They were all delicious.
She would always scold me and my wife when we came to visit. It always seemed to be at the time that she just got some bread out of the oven and joked we were spying to always show up on time. The breads were always in the shape of the coffee can or the tomato cans. Great memories.
I love hearing back from readers when a recipe sparks a taste memory. Your vision of your mom’s breads baked in a coffee can made me remember my grandmother’s brown bread, plump with raisins, and always baked in a can so you got marvelous rounds rather than rectangular slices.
LaVerne Preece of Hobe Sound, formerly of Miami Lakes, sent an original yellowed clipping from a long-ago issue of the Miami Herald and says, “I have used it many times, and it is delicious.”
Jill Fraczek, who reads Cook’s Corner in the Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times, says the recipe reminded of her one that her mother called Chicken in Sherry Sauce. “Perhaps it’s the same thing as London Chicken. I’m sure my mother would have copied this out of a magazine, and the 60s sounds about right.”
Send questions and responses to LindaCiceroCooks@aol.com or Food, The Miami Herald, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172.
Doctored Macaroni and Cheese
2 (7 1/4-ounce) boxes macaroni and cheese dinner
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 (8-ounce) bar cream cheese, cut in small cubes
1/2 teaspoon, or to taste, cayenne pepper
1/2 cup cracker crumbs, or to taste, optional
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 1 1/2-quart casserole with vegetable oil cooking spray. Bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Stir in the macaroni from the 2 boxes. Cook until al dente, about 7 minutes, stirring. Drain but do not rinse. Return to the pan with the butter, the cheese powder from the box, sour cream and cream cheese. Mix well; it is OK if all the cream cheese does not melt. Stir in half the shredded cheese.
Spoon into the casserole dish. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top, then top with the cracker crumbs. Bake 20 minutes, or until heated through. Makes 12 servings; recipe may be halved.
Variations: May use fat-reduced versions of cheeses and sour cream. For variety, stir in 1 cup frozen peas or broccoli florets, and/or 1 cup cubed ham or 1 can tuna.
Per serving: 240 calories (55 percent from fat), 14.6 g fat (8.2 g saturated, 3.8 g monounsaturated), 41.6 cholesterol, 16 g protein, 50 g carbohydrates, 1.9 g fiber, 468 mg sodium.
Oliver’s Super Duper French Toast
6 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 1 1/2 ounces Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur, or to taste
1 loaf French bread
Butter or vegetable oil
Mix eggs, heavy cream, orange juice, vanilla and Grand Marnier. (If you prefer not to use liqueur, substitute 1 heaping teaspoon finely grated orange rind, or 1 teaspoon orange extract). Pour into glass baking dish.
Remove ends from the bread and cut loaf into 12 to 15 slices, each about 3/4 inch thick. Place slices in egg mixture and let stand for a few minutes to absorb some of the liquid; then turn so the other side of the bread can absorb the mixture. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you are ready to prepare the French toast. Soaked overnight, the bread becomes almost custardlike in texture.
Preheat heavy skillet or electric griddle to about 325 degrees. Grease generously with butter or oil. Add a few bread slices, but do not crowd the pan. Cook on one side until golden brown, turn and cook on the other side. Remove and keep warm while you cook remaining slices, adding more butter or oil as needed.
Alternately, heat oven to 400 degrees. Uncover baking dish; bake 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and toast is golden brown. Let stand 3 minutes. Invert onto large serving platter. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.
Per serving: 457 calories (40 percent from fat), 20 g fat (10.7 g saturated, 6.4 g monounsaturated), 230 mg cholesterol, 16 g protein, 50 g carbohydrates, 1.9 g fiber, 468 mg sodium.
Pumpkin Flan with Chocolate Crust
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup or 4 ounces cream cheese
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
5 large eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon or canela
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch kosher or coarse sea salt
1 1/2 cups coarsely crushed chocolate graham crackers
In a medium saucepan, set over medium-low heat, heat sugar, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until fully dissolved and caramel colored. Quickly pour caramel into the bottoms of 10 individual ramekins, swirling around to coat the bottom of each one. Work swiftly as caramel hardens fast.
In a food processor or blender combine half-and-half, cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, eggs, pumpkin puree, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt and puree until smooth. Pour pureed mixture into prepared ramekins, filling to 1/4-inch below the rim. Top each ramekin with 2 generous tablespoons of crushed crackers; don’t press them down. Place flans in a large baking dish or roasting pan; fill pan with hot water halfway up the height of the ramekins.
Cover the pan lightly with aluminum foil. Carefully place into the oven and bake for 50 minutes; flans should look completely set. Remove from the oven, remove the aluminum foil and remove each ramekin from the water bath. Let the flans cool completely before covering with plastic wrap and placing in the refrigerator. Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving. When ready to eat, run a small knife around the edge of each flan all the way to the bottom. Invert dessert plate over ramekin, flip over and shake slightly to release. Leave the ramekin on top of the flan for a minute or so, so all the caramel sauce can run over the flan.
Per serving: 390 calories (30 percent from fat), 13.3 g fat (6.8 g saturated, 4.2 g monounsaturated), 121 mg cholesterol, 0 g protein, 6.4 g carbohydrates, 1.2 g fiber, 203 mg sodium.
Source: Chef Pati Jinich.