Oriental Lasagna with Cream Crackers

How many of you grew up eating Cream Crackers? Well I certainly did as my father has been working with Hup Seng for the longest time as a wholesale distributor and if there’s anything that’s omnipresent in our household, this is it. There are many years Malaysians love to enjoy Cream crackers. Some of you would probably vouch for Milo + Crackers as your breakfast growing up. Kaya is a popular one as well I’m sure. I used to drizzle condense milk on my crackers, definitely not the healthiest but since we are already going there, why not go all the way right?

I remember once I was at a house party in Bintulu (of course I was still very young then), and I came across this savoury snack made with cream crackers, or we used to like to call it Ping Pong biscuits back then. It kinda did blow my mind. The eggy filling with something as simple as luncheon meat was all the more comforting. That was my only encounter with this Foochow hybrid snack. I don’t even know what it’s really called. But google turned up some results and I guess I’m gonna go with Oriental Lasagna.

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It resembles a lasagna because the cream crackers act as “Lasagna sheets”, you’ll do either 5 or 7 layers (depends how much crackers you want to consume). Although, the egg and milk filling also makes it similar to a quiche. The fillings always include Luncheon meat and onions at its simplest, especially back in the days when luxurious ingredients aren’t readily available. I added mushrooms in mine to errr lighten it slightly, haha. When cut up, it looks like this:

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My layers aren’t so distinctive because my egg/milk ratio is slightly higher thus the layers look more filled up. Which is fine for me because I love the filling. How to make this? Very simple, even kids can do it!

Oriental Lasagna (苏打饼千层糕)adapted from My Cooking Escapades.

Ingredients:
27 pcs of Cream Crackers (36 if you are doing an extra layer, which is what most people do I think)
1 can evaporated milk
5 eggs

Filling:
1 Onion, finely chopped
1 can Luncheon Meat, diced
Button mushrooms, a handful and roughly chopped
chili flakes
salt (optional)
White pepper

In a pan heat oil on high heat and saute onions until translucent, then add mushrooms and luncheon meat. Cook until slightly coloured and season with pepper and salt if you want to. i didn’t add any salt at all. Turn off heat and set aside. Depends on the amount of layers you might want to divide into either 2 or 3 portions.

Beat evaporated milk and eggs together and soak cream crackers in small batches (I soaked 9 at a time so I can do the whole layer, you can do it in even smaller amount). Just a few seconds would be fine, you just want the crackers to be less brittle to handle, since you’ll be drowning everything later anyway. Meanwhile, oil your square cake tin too (23cm x 23cm would be ideal).

Start lining the soaked cream cracker, your tin should fit 3 x 3, if not you might want to consider biting off the edges (just kidding, a little bit of overlapping won’t hurt). Spread half the luncheon meat mixture over, then layer with more cream crackers. Spread the other half of the meat mixture, and finish with the last layer of cream crackers.

Pour the remaining of the egg mixture over the top. Use a spatula to press down the top layer gently to ensure all layers are submerged. Steam for around 30minutes, or cover the tin with foil to bake for 40 minutes in 180C oven.

Let cool slightly before removing. I’d suggest at least 30 minutes. It’s lovely when warm, but perfectly fine room temperature. Serve it with chili sauce for extra oomph. I recommend Lingham’s.

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Don’t underestimate the serving. I think this easily feed around 10 people. I’m pretty sure this just blew Kevin’s mind today too. The sweetness of onion, savoury crackers and luncheon meat make such good pairing. A dose of chili sauce really elevates the whole experience too. This is something that will appeal to all ages for sure.

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Our breakfast!

This can keep in the fridge, although I’d guarantee there won’t be much leftover. Just reheat in the oven or re-steam before serving. I use my trusty airfryer of course. Though I’d recommend try baking it for a slightly crispy top for that textural contrast.

Please do try it at home and let me know how it goes!

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Salted Egg Yolk Cookies (CNY)

It’s exactly one week to go until Chinese New Year! Have you bought all the necessary things (by necessary I mean mostly food) yet? Some of you have been baking up a frenzy, no doubt. Since we finally got a decent oven for this household, I’ve been hardworking enough to churn out some Chinese New Year cookies as well, and this year I’ve decided to try something new: Salted Egg Yolk Cookies!

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Salted Egg Yolk (SEY) anything have always been hugely popular in Malaysia/Singapore and people are putting them in everything: ice cream, croissant, waffles, pasta…. you name it and it has been tried. It’s hard to resist the allure of it, of course. It’s the very definition of umami, and adds that extra decadence to your dishes, be it sweet or savoury. Because of the SEY craze, I’ve tried putting it on pizza, pasta and our favourite concoction has to be these melt-in-the-mouth cookies. Easy to make, absolutely delightful to eat. You just can’t stop at one bite!

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Here’s the recipe I use with a little bit of adaptation of my own. It’s pretty straight forward and it goes without saying that the better ingredients you use, the better it will taste. So try to get Salted Egg from the market, and best butter you can buy (I’d suggest Kerrygold because I only use Grassfed butter, the cheaper alternative is Anchor). I added milk powder because I like the taste, you can totally omit it if you wish. Let’s get to it!

Salted Egg Yolk Cookies (adapted from Bake for Happy Kids)
125g Plan Flour
10g Corn Starch
1/8 Teaspoon Baking Powder
2 Salted Egg Yolks
85g Butter
40g Sugar
1 Tablespoon Milk Powder
Pinch of Salt
Egg wash
Sesame Seeds

First, cook the salted egg yolks, you may choose to cook the salted egg whole and just scoop out the egg yolks, or steam the yolks alone. What I do is I usually boil the whole egg for about 9 minutes (I’ve tried cooking for shorter time but the egg yolks tend to be undercooked). By the way if you have some fantastic ideas for leftover salted egg whites, send it my way! Mash the egg yolk with a fork and set aside until needed.

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Weigh out the ingredients accordingly. I usually do the flour, corn starch baking powder, salt and milk powder together.

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In a big bowl, weigh out butter and sugar and mix it together well (you can use a handmixer for this too). Pour the rest of the dry ingredients together along with the salted egg yolks, and mix well.

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The dough now should come together easily when you gather by hands.
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Flatten the dough to a disc (around 6mm thickness would be ideal) and wrap in cling film to cool in fridge for around half an hour. When you are ready, pick your favourite cookie cutter and cut out the dough. When it’s sufficiently cold, it should be quite easy to handle. If it gets too soft, put it back into the fridge for a while and then continue working.

By now you should have your oven preheated to 170 degree Celsius. This number should yield around 80 small cookies so you can do it in 2 batches. Brush the top with some egg wash and sprinkle sesame seeds on top. The egg wash is important here because not only it will give the cookies a nice sheen, it also acts as a glue for the sesame seeds.

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Send the baking tray into the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until lovely golden. Let cool completely and try not to steal too many of it before storing it in airtight container.

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I’ve already made 3 batches of these and there’s barely anything left now (it’s only a 3 person household, mind you). Kevin actually finished the first batch in one seating. So much for watching his diet. Hehe. I guess I need to make some more before next week then.

Happy Baking (and Eating)!

Tofu Cheesecake with Strawberry Compote in a Jar

Couple of nights ago, I posted a photo on facebook and had many of you guessing what I was making.

Does this make you curious?
Does this make you curious?

There were a lot of guesses from ice cream, yoghurt, Tau fu fa, to Panna Cotta with Peanut Butter Brittle (hahaha this is really not quite as fancy as that) and even Tapai (fermented rice, as google says). But the expert baker Wendy guessed it correctly as soon as she arrived on that particular thread. That’s right, I was making cheesecakes in jars! I got the idea from the days of surfing Pinterest (sad to say I’ve abandoned it for a while, got a bit too busy), and there are so many things you can make in a jar! Salads, particularly, piqued my interest too. Though looking through my food album I realised I haven’t made a dessert for quite a while. So here it is!

Cheesecakes in Jars
Cheesecakes in Jars

These are no ordinary cheesecakes, by the way, as you know I’m always looking for healthier option when it comes to my cooking. A while ago I came across a recipe for Tofu Cheesecake, courtesy of the YouTube food sensation cookingwithdog (go have a look, I’m sure you’ll get hooked too) and decided I had to try it. Instead of keeping it plain, I went with some strawberry compote for garnish, and I think they look quite beautiful, what do you think?

I love the vibrant red for the contrast.
I love the vibrant red for the contrast.

So there you go, this isn’t my original creation but it is indeed my own interpretation of a healthy(ish) dessert.

Tofu Cheesecake with Strawberry Compote in Jars (makes 6 or 5 very generous portions)
Biscuit Base:
100g Marie Biscuits (you can choose to use more if you prefer more base) I also happened to use the Chocolate flavour ones, which matches the strawberry compote.
70g Butter, melted

Filling:
250g Philadelphia Cream Cheese (you can use light cream cheese if you wish)
200g Soft Tofu (pressed with a heavy dish on top to get rid of excess water)
100ml Thickened cream (more if needed)
1/4 Cup Caster Sugar
1 squeeze of Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 packet of gelatine (enough amount to firm up 500ml water, so check your packet’s instructions)

Strawberry Compote:
1 punnet of Stawberries (saving a few for ganish)
1/4 cup Sugar
General squeeze of Lemon

To make the the biscuit base, crush the biscuit in a ziplock bag by hand initially, then with a rolling pin. Add melted butter and shake to combine.

To make the filling, add everything into a blender, pulse initially, then blend well. You might need a bit more cream if your mixture is too thick. You want it to be slightly runny.

Sprinkle gelatine in a bowl of hot water and mix with a fork until dissolved and add into the blender. Blend for another 10-20 seconds until combined.

To assemble, spoon the biscuit mixture into jars, and lightly press with the spoon (or if you have long fingers, then by hand), pour the mixture equally into jars. Lightly tap out the air bubbles and flatten the top. Then chill in fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight.

To make the strawberry compote, simply boil everything in a saucepan until the mixture is syrupy and strawberries are soft. Set aside and let cool before using. You can either pour it on top of the cheesecake after a few hours, or just pour in before serving.

A jar of cheesecake for you?
A jar of cheesecake for you?

Does the fact that it contains tofu confuse you? Well, if you are well-versed to tau fu fa, you will be able to accept this cheesecake easily. It’s definitely lighter (in taste) than ordinary cheesecake, but the texture remains the same. You’ll be able to taste the cream cheese, though with a very mild soy aftertaste. Frank is not a big fan of Tofu but he was really surprised how good this tasted.

As for me, I absolutely love the combination with the strawberries and the biscuit base. Think I’ll be trying different flavour profile next time, and perhaps add my favourite cheesecake ingredient: Rose water. You can definitely use different garnishes like blueberries, mango, passionfruit, the possibilities are endless.

So, would you be game enough to try this? I dare you!

Lemony Almond Cookies

Wow, can you believe it’s only 2 more days til Chinese (Lunar) New Year? I’ve been seeing so many Chinese New Year related recipes posted on blogs and facebook and it’s been such a temptation! After going through hundreds of recipes, I’ve decided I’d be making Almond Cookies this year. Because I simply love Almond baked goods and the fact that it uses less flour means slightly less guilty!

Before we go on with the recipe, I’d like to show you something that’s totally unrelated but definitely worth watching. This is my supermodel boyfriend Frank, in a Perodua ad quite a few years ago.

WHY OH WHY YOU NEVER TOLD ME YOU HAD A BLONDE WIFE AND 2 BEAUTIFUL KIDS?!

Err, the accent is hilarious too. So NOT Dublin. Apparently this ad won a couple of awards for its production too. I’ve always known the guy can act. Haha! So if you are looking for talent, feel free to contact me, I’ve appointed myself as Frank’s agent thank you very much.

After watching this again, I think I will hide the almond cookies from Frank so he will be able to fit into that suit again.

Oh, sorry. Back to business. The recipe I used came from Abigail Tan’s blog, with some minor adaptations of my own. I’ve added a touch of butter and some lemon zest for that extra citrus note, inspired by Christine’s recipes. Did I mention that this is easy peasy? I got a kg pack of Almond meal from Baking with Yen for only RM29.50. Pretty good price compared to those sold in Village Grocer (nearly RM50).

Lemon Almond Cookies
Lemon Almond Cookies

110g Almond meal
160g All Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
50g Castor Sugar
100g Peanut Oil
1 tablespoon Unsalted Butter
Zest of Half Lemon (use whole if you prefer stronger lemon taste)
1 egg yolk for brushing

Mix all the dry ingredients together then pour in the oil as well as butter (softened). Work into a soft dough. Shape into balls (about one tablespoon each) and place on baking tray that’s lined wit baking paper.

Preheat oven to 170C. Brush egg yolk on cookies then bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.

Lovely Auspicious Golden Hue
Lovely Auspicious Golden Hue

I rolled my cookies a little larger than usual, but it didn’t require longer time to cook through. In fact I turned off the oven before the indicated time judging by the colour.

Delicious!
Delicious!

These cookies hold their shape very well, and have just the right crunch before melting in your mouth. I do love the addition of lemon, it’s very refreshing. I had three of them before putting all into containers so I won’t be tempted again.

This only yields 1 and half containers.
This batch only filled 1 and half containers.

I will make another batch tomorrow and roll the balls smaller, and if time permits, some pineapple tarts as well. You can check out my recipe from last year.

For our reunion dinner on Saturday, we are going to have Yee Sang (another recipe I’ve blogged about last year, but shall do it a little differently this time), Rice paper roll, Roast Pork (or Char Siew) and maybe a Steamed fish. Plenty of vegetables! What will you be making/eating for your reunion dinner?

I am submitting this post to Chinese New Year Delights 2013 hosted by Sonia aka Nasi Lemak Lover.

Pahang MFF: Cream Scones with Strawberry Jam

This is going to be a nutter of a week for me. 3 gigs in a week (2 on Friday) and the rest is filled with rehearsals and various events. Silly season has well and truly arrived!

It’s Pahang month for Malaysia’s Food Fest, hosted by Wendy. Read more about Pahang and its local delicacy here. Pahang is a rather large state and there are quite a few districts with their own special dishes, which is why this is a great month to experiment with new recipes. I’ve bought Durian for the first time in my life (usually my dad buys them and I just stay away… haha) and considering doing some desserts with them. But before that, a very traditional recipe (surprisingly, of British origin), a popular dish enjoyed by tourists and locals alike at Cameron Highlands: Scones with Strawberry Jam.

Cameron Highlands is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Malaysia. It’s also blessed with a lovely cool climate which enables the farming of strawberries. The name came from a British surveyor William Cameron who made the discovery of these mountains. In the past it has been heavily populated by the British, which explains the afternoon tea culture.

I’ve used a recipe from Martha Stewart (it happens to be her month for Cook Like A Star Blog Hop, two birds one stone heh), although I did have to alter it a little by adding a little bit of extra milk. The original dough looked a little too dry for my liking. Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to Cameron Highlands strawberries so I had opted for a jar instead. If you can get nice strawberries, it’s worth making your own jam since it’s super easy and will taste better too.

All we need is a nice cuppa.
All we need is a nice cuppa.

Recipe adapted from www.marthastewart.com

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface, hands, and cutter
3 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing
1/4 cup milk (I’ve added this because the cream didn’t seem enough)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
Strawberry jam, for serving
Softly whipped cream (with Vanilla Beans), for serving

Preheat oven to 200C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Using a pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter until largest pieces are the size of small peas.
Using a fork, whisk together the cream and eggs in a large glass measuring cup. Make a well in the center of flour mixture, and pour in cream mixture. Stir lightly with fork just until the dough comes together (do not overmix).

This is where I did differently from Martha. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface. With floured hands, gently roll the dough into a log.

Like this.
Like this.

Divide and cut into 8 pieces, and transfer them to lined baking sheet.

Make sure they are quite uniform in size.
Make sure they are quite uniform in size.

Brush tops with cream, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake scones until golden brown, 16 to 20 minutes. Transfer scones to wire rack, and let cool.

Of course, I didn't wait that long and dug in when it was still warm.
Of course, I didn’t wait that long and dug in when it was still warm.

I added a dusting of icing sugar too. The way I like it.

Mmmmm… happiness!

The texture was good, flakey and just dense enough as a good transport for some delicious vanilla whipped cream and strawberry jam.  Ultimate enjoyment!

I am submitting this post to Malaysian Food Fest, Pahang Month hosted by WendyinKK of Table for 2….. or More

Also submitting this to the “Cook Like Martha Stewart” bloghop hosted by Baby Sumo, Zoe of Bake for Happy Kids and Jocelyn of Riceball Eats. Check out the rest of the entries below!

Strawberry-Lemon Whoopie Pies

Well, what do you know…. the little hint of itchy throat (or sandy, as previously mentioned) has now turned into a full blown tonsilitis. Just grand. I might have to turn up for my rehearsal tomorrow wearing a mask, quite unlike the inconsiderate unknown person who’s passed his/her germs to me. mmm-hmmph. Not happy, Jan.

And there began the intensive workout of my stoves. Chicken soup one side, congee another. And propped on the other side of the kitchen, my electric mixer, mixing bowls and various baking ingredients. Someone stop me before I cover my apartment with baked goods!

To be fair, slaving away in the kitchen IS definitely the better option, considering the other involves bed and….. lack of entertainment as my iPad’s broken (there goes everything I downloaded including 500+ books), and I’ve finished all the books at home, most of them more than once. Woe is me etc.

Which is why I’ve managed to bake these Whoopie Pies as part of the Bake Along hosted by Joyce from Kitchen Flavours and Lena from Frozen wings and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids.

Bake Along No.31: Whoopie Pies

I’ve never eaten a whoopie pie before but I know they are somewhat a cross between cake and biscuits. A lot of the recipes I came across are either chocolate or red velvet (also uses cocoa powder). Having anything chocolate would be the worst idea for my throat so I’ve decided on a fruity combination: Lemon and Strawberries. The recipe I’ve used come from Martha Stewart, though it’s a raspberry version. Simple, just swap the fruits!

Coincidentally, my sister have been baking macarons this weekend and we were both tracking our progress through Whatsapp. The wonders of technology.

Strawberry-Lemon Whoopie Pies (You might or might not notice the ones in the background are much larger)

Recipe from Martha Stewart

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup light-brown sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup fresh strawberries

Before I proceed I shall mention that I bloody hate using the big grater, be it to zest lemons or grate vegetables. I almost always take some part of my knuckles away. Avert your eyes if you must.

Sorry for the gory image but I had to.

Anyway…. let’s make some whoopie pies!

Preheat oven to 170 degree Celsius. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter, almost 1 cup of sugar (with 3 tablespoons reserved for the filling), and lemon zest until light and creamy. Add vanilla and egg and beat to combine, scraping down bowl as needed.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With mixer on low, beat in flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk and ending with flour mixture (scrape bowl as needed). Beat well to combine.

Drop batter in 2-tablespoon mounds, about 2 inches apart, onto two parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until puffed and pale golden around edges, 17 to 19 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let cakes cool completely on sheets on wire racks.

In a large bowl, whip cream and 3 tablespoons brown sugar to soft peaks. In a small bowl, mash raspberries with a fork, then fold into whipped cream. Divide raspberry cream evenly among bottoms of half the cakes, then sandwich with remaining cakes.

Expanding……

My first batch (being slightly generous with the 2 tablespoons) turned out soooo big!! For the second batch I’ve the mixture by nearly half and yield normal size whoopie pie shells.

Huge whoopie pies…. though Frank won’t complain.

I wonder why my whoopie pie came out a little flat, if it’s because I’ve reduced the sugar content? My sister’s macaron first came out flat too because she had forgotten to add the powder sugar. Maybe I should also reduce the milk next time for a thicker batter. Nevertheless, the taste was everything I expected, with strong citrus scent and lovely light strawberry cream. Frank devoured 4 of those large ones at one go. I mean, that must be a record.

I shall end the post with a public display of my tooth marks. Things you do for the blog etc.

Sexay! (Refer to the whoopie pie, not my teeth)

I promise to return to my cheerful self when I get rid of my tonsil… I mean, when I get better. In the meantime, do check out all the other delicious whoopie pies from the Bake Along participants!



Cheddar Biscuits

As promised, more frequent blog posts. I actually have a few more reviews to write but for some reason I just don’t know how to start. Perhaps these places are not exciting enough for me to wax lyrical over them. Or maybe I’m just ‘better’ at sharing recipes. Either way, this definitely helps me to be more productive in the kitchen and encourages me to try different things. I’ll think about those reviews later. Heh.

Lately I’ve been using my oven a lot again. Maybe I’m just addicted to the aroma filling up the apartment. It’s definitely a cheer-me-up. So I’ve made the Hot Cross Buns, a vegetarian pizza, some cupcakes and yesterday these delicious morsels. I’m not sure why I had the sudden urge to bake something cheesy. But it sure was a great urge! Upon checking the fridge I saw half a block of Cheddar and it was just meant to be.

These are Southern Style Biscuits so they might be a little different from what you would expect. Unlike the typical hard biscuits, these have a fluffier texture and are slightly soft inside. Think Biscuits and Gravy. Perhaps more closely related to scones. This version is unapologetic-ally cheesy, buttery, with a hint of pepper and the fragrant of the parsley. I’ve used extra sharp cheddar, so you could imagine the bitey taste. Mmmm. They disappeared in no time! Well, mostly in Frank’s stomach but I managed to snap a few. They are also incredibly easy to make. So try it for yourself!

Cheddar Biscuits Recipe:

(Makes 12)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup wholemeal flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon Olive oil
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese (The sharper the better)
1/3 cup milk

For brushing on top:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.

Add the butter cubes. Use hands to rub the butter in with flour mixture until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Add oil, grated cheddar cheese and milk. Stir till well combined and holds together. If it looks too dry, add a bit more milk.

Divide the dough into equal rounds and place on baking paper. Flatten the rounds with a spatula. Bake for 15-20 minutes in a preheated oven at 200 degree celcius until nicely golden brown.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter is a small bowl with the parsley. When biscuits come out of the oven, use a brush to spread this parsley butter over the tops of all the biscuits. Do this a few times until all of the butter is used up. Serve warm.

Simply Irresistible!

Have them as is, or with a piping hot bowl of stew (like a good chili con carne) or soup. Yum!

And it’s time for me to restock the cheese counter.