Take-and-bake dessertsDessert often gets short shrift from...


Take-and-bake desserts

Dessert often gets short shrift from home chefs these days: The family will always eat ice cream with chocolate sauce, and cakes are just too much trouble. When you're entertaining it would be nice to have a special, hot-from-the-oven pie, or when the kids need an evening snack, a nice pan of freshly baked cookies. But who has time to bake anymore?

Melanie Armiger, of the Cafe Madeira in Fells Point, does; and she'll fix your dessert -- all you have to do is take it home and bake it.

Ms. Armiger, whose dessert-and-coffee cafe has attracted a loyal clientele, offers apple, peach, blueberry or pecan pies (fruit pies are $6.25; pecan is $7.55), as well as apple dumplings ($1.25 each), apple almond tarts ($1.95 each), strawberry "purses" (strawberry-filled pastry, $1.25 each) and cookie dough (prices vary).

Ms. Marne suggests the desserts are "perfect for company"; she also suggests you call a day in advance to order the dessert of your choice. She doesn't suggest it, but how would anyone know if, when complimented on your baking skills, you simply smiled and said, "Thanks."

Cafe Madeira is at 1623 Thames St.; (410) 675-7105.

I t's that green time of year again -- as in St. Patrick's Day. The Irish and the not-so celebrate by wearing green, singing Irish songs and perhaps lifting a few brews to the old country.

The Irish Trade Board wants to make sure all the sons and daughters get a taste of Ireland at this festive time (or any time) by offering a series of recipe pamphlets. To receive the pamphlets, send a stamped, self-addressed business-sized envelope to the Irish Trade Board, 880 Third Ave., 8th floor, New York, N.Y. 10021.

You can also order Irish products, such as Irish bacon, Irish "bangers" (sausages) and traditional black and white breakfast pudding (spicy sausage) from Shannon Traditional Imported Irish Foods. A specialty is the Irish Breakfast by Mail -- 1 pound of traditional Irish bacon, 2 pounds of bangers, 8 ounces each black and white pudding, and a tub of Light Dairy Spread. The combination will serve eight and costs $29.99, delivered by Federal Express. Products can also be shipped alone, or in any combination. For information or to order, call (800) 669-0063.

Here's a sample recipe from the Irish Trade Board's St. Patrick's Day menu:

Potato, cabbage and Irish bacon casserole

Serves four.

6 cups (about 3/4 pound) shredded green cabbage

1 large onion, chopped

1/2 pound Irish slab bacon cut in 1/4 -inch cubes (see note)

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1/4 teaspoon leaf thyme

salt and pepper

1 pound boiling potatoes, pared and thinly sliced

3/4 cup defatted chicken broth

2 ounces ( 1/2 cup) shredded low-fat Cheddar cheese

non-stick cooking spray

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 3-quart casserole dish witcooking spray. Layer with half of cabbage and onions; sprinkle with half of bacon. Sprinkle with half of parsley, thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange half of potatoes over. Repeat layers ending with potatoes. Pour chicken broth over; sprinkle with cheese. Cover. Bake for 45 minutes. Uncover; bake 15 minutes more or until top is brown.

Note: You can order Irish slab bacon from Shannon International (see number above); or you can substitute Canadian bacon or ham steaks, cut into 1/4 -inch cubes.

T hose who like to take a drop to celebrate their Irish heritage (or somebody else's), might find their consciences eased by Carolans Light Irish Cream Liqueur, which claims to have half the fat and a third fewer calories than premium Irish creams. The new liqueur is produced in Clonmel, County Tipperary, and retails for $10 to $12 a bottle. For a spread to go with scones or traditional Irish soda bread, combine 8 ounces light, whipped cream cheese and 3 tablespoons liqueur. Beat in small bowl until light and fluffy.

Celebrating Italy

From this coming Saturday through April 5, Sutton Place Gourmet in the Festival at Woodholme center, 1809 Reisterstown Road, will be celebrating "A Taste of Italy." Three local chefs will be demonstrating cooking with Italian ingredients: chef Giovanni Rigato of Boccaccio, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. March 22; chef Gianni Betti of Germano's, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. March 23; and chef Michael Rork of Hampton's, from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. March 25. A representative of the Italian Trade Commission will discuss pairing Italian wine and food from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. March 26. There will also be displays and samplings, and a drawing for prizes that includes a trip for two to Rome. For information, call (410) 347-7500.

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