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Food
Bring on the naughty desserts

Thursday, August 23, 2001

By Arlene Burnett

We all know we should follow a healthful diet. The government makes it easy for us. All we have to do is follow the Food Pyramid guidelines as best as we can.
 

But if you've ever checked out the pyramid, you know what the feeling is on consuming fats: eat sparingly (and we agree). But judging from the many requests we receive for cakes, cookies and other delectable goodies, people are still preparing, serving and enjoying desserts -- and that's OK with us, because we love to bake and sample all the wonderful recipes sent to us by our readers.

About today's recipes: You have your choice of either Chocolate Eclair Cake or Napoleon Cremes (or creams), two quite different recipes sent to Kitchen Mailbox in answer to one request. Yes, we could have showcased just one recipe, but we like to share as many as space will allow.

The Chocolate Eclair Cake is easy to prepare, and there's no baking involved. This heavenly dessert is made with a layer of graham crackers in a creamy vanilla filling and a chocolate icing topping.

The other recipe, Napoleon Cremes, is quite rich -- so rich that one tiny piece is sufficient to satisfy your sweet tooth. (Now we know why the recipe calls for cutting the cookies in 64 squares.)

We were happy to take both desserts to a Saturday dinner party. After feasting on a scallop appetizer, chicken marsala and Fettucine Alfredo (our hostess is a fantastic cook), we looked forward to sampling the Kitchen Mailbox desserts. The opinion of all? Outstanding!

Susan Masur of Carrick has been trying for years to find a cookie recipe called Napoleon Cremes from a local television show called "Hello, Pittsburgh." This three-layer cookie was made with graham crackers, chocolate, vanilla pudding and powdered sugar. Here two variations.

From Mary Jo Perry of Sheraden: "The recipe Susan Masur requested was shown on WTAE's 'Pittsburgh's Talking.' The show was hosted by Ann Devlin. I have made Napoleon Cremes many times and get rave reviews." Two other readers, Jane B. Cavanaugh of Ellwood City and Denise Baldrige of North Huntingdon, sent the same recipe.

Napoleon Cremes

1/4 cup sugar
1 cup margarine, divided, plus 1/2 cup
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 cups crushed graham crackers
1 cup flaked coconut
3 tablespoons milk
3-ounce package French vanilla instant pudding
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Bottom layer: Combine 1/2 cup margarine, sugar, cocoa and vanilla in 3-quart pan. Cook until margarine melts; stir in egg. Blend in graham cracker crumbs and coconut. Press into a 9-inch square pan.

Cream Layer: Cream 1/2 cup margarine well with electric mixer. Add pudding mix, then milk and powdered sugar. Beat until fluffy. Spread over crust. Chill until firm.

Top: Melt chocolate chips and 1/2 cup margarine. Spread over cream layer. Chill. Cut into 64 pieces.

Donna Bernazzoli of Verona writes: "This is in response to the person looking for Napoleons made with graham crackers. Don't tell people how easy this dessert is to make or that they're eating graham crackers."

Chocolate Eclair Cake

1 box graham crackers
2 3-ounce packages vanilla instant pudding
3 cups milk
8-ounce container of non-dairy whipped topping, thawed
Chocolate frosting (recipe fol- lows)

Butter the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan. Line the bottom of the pan with graham crackers (you'll use about 15).

In large bowl, mix pudding and milk. Stir in the whipped topping.

Spread half the pudding-whipped topping mixture over the graham crackers. Cover with another layer of graham crackers. Spread the remaining filling over the graham crackers, followed by another layer of graham crackers.

Make icing. Spread over final layer of graham crackers. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Here's the frosting recipe we used:

Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup butter or margarine
2/3 cup Hershey's cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter; stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to spreading consistency. Add a small amount additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla.

Hershey's Cocoa

Over several years, Kitchen Mailbox has received numerous requests for canning recipes. Since we haven't had much experience with canning, we bought the "Ball Blue Book, the Guide to Home Canning and Freezing." Although the book was informative, we still had questions. We found a Web site, www.homecanning.com , and phone number, 800-240-3340, for Alitrista Consumer Products Company, marketers of Ball Brand and Kerr Brand home canning products.

We asked Alitrista to review several -- for lack of a better word -- "homestyle" recipes for safety. Here's the company's response:

"Thank you for thinking of us to review your recipe. Regrettably, we are unable to suggest any changes to this recipe to ensure its safety. The only way to know if this product will be safe for home canning is if you work with a food lab and have it analyze the product for various items such as heat penetration, pH, microbial growth. Unfortunately, there are no set standards that give us processing methods and times. Each individual home canning recipe needs to be scientifically tested for safety."

We also asked Alitrista about the use of paraffin. Here's the response: "The open-kettle method or the use of paraffin to seal jellies or soft spreads is no longer safe when making these products. Even though sugar helps preserve these products, mold can grow on the surface of jellies or other soft spreads.

"Research now indicates that the mold, which people usually scrape from the surface, can be harmful. A boiling-water canner is recommended for all jellies and soft spreads to prevent spoilage and ensure a good vacuum seal."

These are recommendations from the experts, and Kitchen Mailbox will follow these guidelines.

Requests

Rose Harpur of Point Breeze writes: "My 11-year-old grandson is a diabetic and has celiac. He's allergic to flour, wheat, rye and barley. I would like to know if any of your readers have some recipes or cookbooks I can buy."

E. Barnes of Aliquippa is looking for a cheesecake-pound cake recipe.

Donna Bernazzoli of Verona seeks a recipe for a champagne chicken salad similar to the salad made by the Forest Hills Gourmet Deli. The salad has a lemony-colored mayonnaise-type dressing. Some of the ingredients are chicken, grapes, carrots and a fresh herb -- maybe basil.

Letters

"Concerning [food editor] Suzanne Martinson's reporting on egg production [Sunday Magazine, Aug. 19]:

"Please tell Ina Greenawalt that she can call the cages whatever she wants, but they are still 'battery' cages and the hens in the photo look very featherless, pale combed and desperate. As, of course, they would be, considering how they are forced to live.

"I have 20 or so genuine free-range chickens on my farm in Westmoreland County, so I am very familiar with what healthy chickens look like and how they behave if given a natural life.

"Some of my chickens are adopted from a local farm (Oohmahnee Farm), rescued in April when Buckeye Eggs in Ohio was damaged in a tornado.

"These Buckeye hens are de-beaked, and I can tell you that contrary to what Ina and the experts say, it is no 'nail trimming.'

"I know the really big factory farms are worse but only in that the numbers are multiplied. The practices at Greenawalt are the standard for the industry.

"You, Suzanne, have been to chicken hell and back.

"It matters not that the hens are killed at 18 months of age; what matters is the nasty facts of their everyday existence. And all this so the eggs will be cheap."

Joan Byrne, Greensburg

"PS: Please tell the Leichers to keep the hen/rooster ratio at 1/20. Contrary to whatever they think about 'happy hens,' chicken sex is violent and the 1/10 ratio in a penned environment is very hard on the hens."



"I read your article on the Smucker's crustless pb&j sandwiches [Suzanne Martinson column, Aug. 16], and I chuckled. You see, I've been making those very same sandwiches for two years now for my little daughter, using a handy product from Pampered Chef. It does exactly what you were trying to achieve: It cuts off the crust, and crimps it, EXACTLY the same way the Smuckers sandwiches are!

"It is called Cut and Seal, and it retails from The Pampered Chef for $8.75, last time I checked. It's been a real nice timesaver for someone who has a finicky little one!"

Jim Holland, Brookline


If you want to answer a recipe request from a reader or are looking for a recipe yourself, please write to Kitchen Mailbox, c/o Arlene Burnett, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh 15222, or e-mail to aburnett@post-gazette.com Please include a name, neighborhood and a daytime phone number on all correspondence.

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