The Great Mouse Detective

 

Cheese Crumpets

Before I ever heard the names Hercule Poirot, Kogoro Akechi, and C. Auguste Dupin, I was captivated by mysteries. I loved putting the pieces together to find out “Who done it?” I’d always pay extra attention to episodes and movies about detectives, so it was only a matter of time until I met the famous Basil of Baker Street. I didn’t even know about Sherlock Holmes yet, but I found the whole detective dynamic with the hero, his partner, and the villain absolutely brilliant. Especially when I wanted to root for Basil and Dr. Dawson, but Vincent Price kept pulling me over to Professor Ratigan’s side. I had good taste.

Speaking of good taste, I need to talk about the movie’s unsung hero, Mrs. Judson. She’s an angel for being able to put up with Basil and his eccentricities. Not only that, she makes the most delightful looking cheese crumpets. Sure, hers are baked in muffin tins so they don’t have the classic shape, but they do keep their familiar nooks and crannies. Call them whatever you want. (Baked crumpets. Bread Muffins.) I call them delicious.

Recipe makes 16 crumpets.

 Ingredients

 1 ½ cups warm milk (105-115 degrees F)

¾ cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)

2 ½ teaspoons yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon butter, melted

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups bread flour

1 cup shredded cheese, cheddar or any other kind you want

 

Directions

In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm milk and water. Let rest for 5 minutes or until foamy. Meanwhile, melt the butter and set aside to cool slightly. Add the salt, baking soda, melted butter, and both flours to the yeast mixture. Stir until well combined. Cover the bowl and allow the batter to rise for 30 minutes.

Add cheese to the batter and stir to incorporate it. Scoop the batter into greased muffin tins about two-thirds of the way full. Allow the batter to rest in the tins for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Bake the crumpets until they are lightly golden and done, 20 minutes. Remove the muffin tins from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the crumpets from the tins and enjoy!

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Olivia Flaversham has her priorities straight when she fills her pockets with yummy cheese crumpets before going adventuring. The poor girl’s been through a lot. She deserves them. I need them just from watching Fidget kidnap Mr. Flaversham. That really frightened me when I was little. But in a good way because there isn’t a thing I didn’t like about this movie. That still holds true, so I figure it was only natural that I’d grow up to be a detective nerd. Well, I’ve got to run, so, “With time so short, I’ll say so long. And go, so soon. Goodbye.”

 

Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!

 

The Emperor’s New Groove

 

Kronk’s Spinach Puffs

We’re well into the first week of the brand spanking New year! After reflecting on the year that’s passed, people feel the need to do something different with the New one they’ve been given. Some try to learn or do something New. Others adopt New rhythms by which they live their lives, or their patterns of behavior, or as it’s known in some circles, their Grooves.

See where I’m going with this? If things went Kuzco’s way, Pacha’s family would be evicted and Kuzco would be lazing away his days at Kuzcotopia. Doesn’t sound very Disney-esque, does it? But when things go hilariously wrong, we get the story we know and love. And it’s all thanks to that loveable oaf, Kronk. The guy can’t tell the difference between poison and extract of llama (In his defense, all of Yzma’s poisons look the same.) and he’s got some real issues with the devil and angel on his shoulders. One thing the guy’s got down, though, is cooking. That and speaking to tiny woodland creatures, but that has nothing to do with food. (I hope.) He can take over as a diner cook at the drop of a hat. And what about those spinach puffs?

Recipe makes 12 servings.

 Ingredients

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed but chilled

1 10 ounce package of chopped spinach, thawed

4 ounces of cream cheese, room temperature

¾ cup shredded, grated, or crumbled cheese; I used mozzarella, but feta or anything else is fine.

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ cup onion, finely chopped

1 tsp garlic, minced

Salt

Pepper

1 egg plus 1 tablespoon of water or milk for egg wash

 

Directions

Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Set aside.

Squeeze out as much water as possible from the spinach. In a medium bowl, combine spinach, cream cheese, cheese, onion, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Add the egg and mix until well combined.

Unfold the sheet of puff pastry and cut into 12 squares. Slightly stretch each square or roll out with a rolling pin, so you have a little more pastry to work with. Divide the filling amongst the puff pastry squares. Shape the pastry around the filling. My method is to take a square and turn it so you’re looking at a diamond instead. Fold the point closest to you under the pastry enough so the front is a flat edge. Bring the two sides of the diamond together and pinch everything but the front together to close. Fold the back point of the pastry under itself enough so it has more of a straight or rounded edge. Repeat this with the rest of the squares and chill on a parchment-lined baking sheet for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Beat the egg and combine with water/milk to make an egg wash. Brush each puff with the egg wash and bake until they are puffed and golden brown, 20-25 minutes.

Move the spinach puffs to a wire rack to cool slightly. Serve and enjoy!

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Yzma never liked Kronk’s spinach puffs, but she doesn’t count. Maybe she lost her sense of taste over her many many years. If Kuzco had gotten a chance to try them, he’d probably like them. Well, he wouldn’t like mine because of his whole, “Cheese, me no likey,” thing.

Cheese or no cheese, if Kronk spent a little less time focusing on these delectables and a little more on properly disposing of the emperor, Kuzco never would have to make that long walk back to the palace. Then he’d never realize that he was being heartless and selfish and there’s no point in being the hippest cat in creation if he has no friends. After all, a perfect world begins and ends with not just one person, but all of us if we do it right.

 

Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!

 

A Goofy Movie

Hi Dad Soup

Even though we’re already drowning in Christmas ads, it’s still only November. You know, that month with that one holiday where we feel obligated to say what we’re thankful for. Hands down, for me it’s my family. They drive me crazy sometimes, but there’s nobody else I’d rather go down with. And I don’t tell them how much they mean to me as much as I should. It’s not like I really have to come out and say it though. It’s in the little things I do. Like spelling out a message in some soup that says, “I love you,” or maybe just, “Hi, Dad.”

Is this all ringing a bell? Sounds just like Max, right? I’ve never been as much of a jerk as he is, though. Goofy’s his dad and he doesn’t appreciate him! No, I get it. Families disconnect all the time. You let so many other things get in the way that you lose sight of what’s truly important. All it takes is something like sharing a can of soup to make you realize that. I guess having Bigfoot trash your camp and trap you in your car helps too.

Recipe makes 8 servings.

 Ingredients

 ½ an onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons butter

1 can (28oz) whole or chopped tomatoes

6-6 ½ cups chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1-2 tablespoons sugar

½ tsp salt

½ tsp white pepper

½ cup heavy cream, optional

1-1 1/2 cups uncooked alphabet noodles

 

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, 5-10 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste and butter. Stir until butter has melted and tomato paste begins to brown. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, bay leaf, sugar, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf and puree in batches or with an immersion blender. Add cream and additional seasoning if needed. Boil the pasta according to the directions on the box, drain, and stir into soup. Or add uncooked pasta to the soup and simmer until fully cooked, 10-15 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

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Ah, both this soup and A Goofy Movie make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It must be the power of good food and good memories. Hmm, kind of what Thanksgiving is all about. As for Max and Goofy, it didn’t instantly fix their problems, (Max still went and changed the map.) but it got them on the road to seeing it I 2 I.

 

Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!

 

The Nightmare Before Christmas

 

Soup

 For a brief point in my childhood, this movie was almost taboo in my house. It wasn’t that the movie was Satanic or anything. My mom just didn’t care much for it and told us not to watch it. You know, so we wouldn’t waste our time. However, we took it to mean that the movie was evil and if we watched it, we’d be punished. Stop motion animation was so new to me, I was completely captivated each time I saw a commercial. It didn’t take long for us to ignore my mom and watch the movie. Before “This is Halloween” was even over, I was hooked and we’ve loved the movie ever since. My sister’s room is practically a shrine dedicated to Jack Skellington and there’ve been some years where we’ve watched Nightmare every night from October through December.

Out of all the characters, Sally is actually one of my least favorites. I know she’s just trying to be reasonable, but why does she have to be such a party pooper? She does have some good qualities, though, like how she’s not afraid to slip Deadly Nightshade into Dr. Finkelstein’s food and drink every chance she gets. And keeping a slotted spoon in her sock is absolute genius. I’m not too sure about eating something with ingredients like Worm’s Wort and Frog’s Breath, but I would like to give that soup a try.

Recipe makes about 6 one-cup servings.

 Ingredients

1 pound dried split peas

4 tablespoons butter

1 cup chopped onion

½ cup chopped celery

2 garlic cloves, minced

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon white pepper

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or parsley

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon lemon juice

8 cups chicken broth

1 cup half-and-half (optional)

 

Directions

 Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes. Add celery and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until onions and celery are soft. Add garlic and cook for 20 seconds. Pour in chicken broth. Add peas, salt, pepper, thyme or parsley, bay leaf, and lemon juice. Cover and cook for 1 hour or until peas are tender, stirring occasionally

Remove bay leaf. Puree the soup in a blender or with an immersion blender. If the soup is too thick, add some water. If you want a creamier soup, stir in half-and-half. Adjust the seasoning, if needed. Serve and enjoy.

Variations: You can soak split peas for 8 hours or overnight and they’ll cook a bit quicker (about 40 minutes). You can also use 5 cups of fresh or frozen peas. You’ll only need to cook these for about 10 minutes before pureeing.

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I don’t know how popular this soup would be in Halloween Town, but the ghosts and witches here like it. It’s good, and green, and won’t knock you out and give you a heck of a headache. I can understand how The Nightmare Before Christmas has become the phenomenon it is. Just like mashing Halloween and Christmas, it’s magical, spooky, and a little weird. That’s why it’s always near the top of our “must watch” list for the holidays.

 

Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!

Mulan

Porridge

I know I’m opening the floodgates when I mention the “D word,” but I’ve been dying to start covering Disney movies. Naturally, I was raised on them and this lucky little person got to experience the Disney Renaissance first hand. The movie previews alone were enough to completely blow me away and then came the toy and food promotions. By the time opening night rolled around, I was a big bundle of nerves and excitement. One of these beautiful films carved into my memory is Mulan. It’s one of my go-to movies and has traveled by my side on just about every family vacation since its home video release. Hardly a day goes by where I don’t bust out a quote or a bit of song from this movie. It’s been like that since the days when my cousin and I would lock ourselves in her room and sing and dance to the soundtrack in our Mulan garb. (She had one wrap-around costume that we’d take turns wearing.) When that was no longer enough, my grandma whipped up the perfect Halloween costume for me that I’d still wear today if I could fit in it. You don’t meet a movie like that every dynasty, so it’s only natural that it would become a part of my life.

No, I don’t see myself defeating Shan Yu and saving China, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be Mulan in my own right. Whether I’m off to destroy people or just heading into work, the best way to start my morning is with a nice breakfast. And one that’s happy to see me to boot. Okay, so rice porridge can be pretty simple, but it’s delicious and comforting and I’d smile right back at it if I ate a big bowl of it every day.

Recipe makes 6 one-cup servings.

 Ingredients

3 cups water

6 cups chicken broth

1 cup rice, rinsed

1 clove garlic, minced

¼ of an onion, minced

¼ ounce piece of peeled fresh ginger

Salt and white pepper to taste

Soy sauce to taste (Optional)

Each serving will need:

2 large eggs

1 slice of bacon

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt and white pepper

 

Directions

In a large pot, combine water, chicken broth, rice, garlic, onion, and ginger. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1-1 ½ hours, stirring occasionally. You want a creamy, oatmeal-like consistency. If it gets too thick, you can add more water or broth. If it’s too thin, allow it to cook longer. Remove ginger piece. Season with salt, white pepper, and soy sauce.

Place a frying pan on medium to low heat. Coat the pan with olive oil. Crack eggs directly into pan and cook until the tops of the whites are set and the yolk is still runny. If the eggs start changing color, turn down the heat. Remove from pan with a spatula and season with salt and white pepper.

Place bacon in a cold pan and set heat to low. When bacon begins to curl, flip it to the other side. This can take about 7 minutes. Continue to cook, flipping it over every few minutes, until it’s browned and almost at your desired crispiness. The bacon will continue to cook after it’s removed from the pan. Drain excess grease by setting the bacon on a plate covered with paper towels.

Putting It All Together:

Scoop out a cup of porridge into a bowl. Place two eggs on top for eyes and add a bacon smile. Grab yourself a pair of chopsticks or a spoon and dig in!

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My family is the most important thing to me and I’d do anything for them. That’s why I made enough rice porridge to serve my entire household. I find it a little safer than stealing my father’s armor, running away from home, and impersonating a soldier. Mulan already has that covered, so I’ll just let my heart show me the way to my own greatness, or maybe just a second helping of porridge.

 

Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!

 

 

Mickey’s Birthday Party

Birthday Cake

 I have no idea how I did it, but when I was a kid, I hardly ever slept. I couldn’t afford to. There was too much TV to watch. As time slowly crept to the wee hours of each morning and everyone else was asleep, I could be found in my living room huddled next to my television set. Some of my favorite things to watch on late-night TV were classic cartoon shorts. It didn’t matter who made them, how old they were, or if they were black and white or colored. I was captivated by them. That hasn’t changed. Yeah, I could’ve just waited a few hours and watched cartoons at a more “reasonable” time, but that’s not me. Watching cartoons alone in the dark really gave me a sense of companionship with the characters on my screen. I really felt like I was best friends with Mickey Mouse and the gang. We would go to the beach or try to catch ghosts. I was even invited to Mickey’s birthday party.

This is one of my absolute favorite Mickey Mouse cartoons, but not because of the birthday boy. Goofy and his cake escapades completely stole the show. That poor guy! I’ve had days just like his. You bake and bake, but nothing ever comes out right. When you’re finally happy with it or you just break down and buy a cake, you happen to trip and it collides with your friend. Thankfully, that didn’t happen with my cake. I’m not too great at decorating cakes, so it’s not the prettiest, but I felt like being a little ambitious in honor of my very own birthday.

 

Ingredients

 Cake:

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, room temperature

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs, room temperature

2 ¾ cups cake flour, sifted

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup milk, room temperature

 Marshmallow Fondant

 8 ounces of marshmallows

2 tablespoons water

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

4 cups (1 pound) powdered sugar, sifted

Pink food coloring

Buttercream Icing

½ cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature

½ cup shortening

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons milk

4 cups (1 pound) powdered sugar, sifted

Red food coloring

 

Directions

 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease and flour a 6-inch, an 8-inch, and a 10-inch cake pan.

Cake:

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, combine milk and vanilla. In a standing mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture and milk alternatingly, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Stir until just combined. Divide batter amongst pans. Gently tap or drop pans on the counter to remove air pockets. Bake for 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when the cake is tested. Cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and wrap completely in plastic wrap. This will help keep your cakes moist. Cool completely on baking racks.

Marshmallow Fondant:

Melt marshmallows in a large bowl in a microwave for 1 minute, stirring at the 30 second mark. Stir water and vanilla extract into marshmallows. Stir in powdered sugar a cup at a time until sticky dough is formed. Dust counter with remaining powdered sugar and turn out dough. You may want to rub your hands with shortening or butter to keep them from sticking to the dough. Knead dough until smooth, workable, and no longer sticky. This can take up to 10 minutes. Then it’s ready to use. You can also make this the night before. Just wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill. Allow it to warm up to room temperature before trying to work the dough.

Buttercream Icing:

In a stand mixer, beat butter and shortening until fluffy. Add vanilla extract. Beat powdered sugar in, a little at a time. Scrape down sides of the bowl and add milk. If the icing is too thick, add more milk, ½ teaspoon at a time.

Putting It All Together:

Unwrap cooled cakes. Cut cakes to size and even out, if needed. Cover the cakes with enough icing to hold in the crumbs and allow the fondant to stick. Roll fondant out as thin as you can without tearing it. Cover bottom cake tier with fondant and smooth out sides so there are no creases. Remove excess fondant. Smooth out edges with hands or tools. Repeat with the other cakes and stack.

Knead a small amount of pink food coloring into some remaining fondant. Shape small pieces of pink fondant into flowers or roll and cut out with a small flower cookie cutter. Scoop some icing into a piping bag with a large tip and pipe icing onto the sides of each tier and the top of the cake. Place fondant flowers on the cake. Add some red food coloring to a small bit of remaining icing and scoop red icing into piping bag with a thin tip. Pipe out “Happy Birthday” onto the side of the cake. Light some candles and get ready to sing!

Variations: You can always use different sized cake pans if you want larger edges or a larger cake in general. The cake I made is very light in color, so if you want a more brown cake, add a little brown food coloring to the batter when you’re alternating the wet and dry ingredients. If you want to completely change it up, make whatever kind of cake you like best. You can also use pre-made fondant or icing if you’re pressed for time or just don’t feel like making any. Icing can also be made without the butter. Just double the shortening for even whiter icing. That’s the way my mom does it.

You can just use buttercream if you don’t care for fondant. After you initially ice the cakes, chill for at least 10 minutes. Dollop more icing on and spread until even and smooth. Chill the cakes again before you stack them and add the details.

Since I was making this cake for just myself, I did single layer tiers, but typical tiered cakes have multiple layers. (And are much bigger and more work.) Just double everything, spread icing between cake layers, stack, cover the tier with icing, and move on to the next one.

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The cake’s not as big as Mickey’s, but it suits this birthday girl just fine. At least I’m not covered in it. Although I wouldn’t be too terribly upset. It’s still cake and it’s delicious even if it’s ugly or smashed. Hey, Mickey didn’t seem that heartbroken when he accidentally got his cake all to himself, now did he?

 

Tune in next week for more Cartoon Cravings!