Friday, December 2, 2016

Danish Cream Squares ~ Flashback Friday

This creamy dessert has been a family favorite for years and is often requested instead of a birthday cake. I originally posted it right here on my daughter's 30th birthday and more recently served it for my granddaughters' fifteenth birthday celebration. Garnish with strawberries or cherries during the holiday season, with a lemon peel spiral in spring or with fresh berries in summer. It's a dessert for all seasons!
  • graham wafers
  • vanilla pudding and pie filling, 6-serving size
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 2 cups whipping cream (500 ml)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 square semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon butter or margarine
  1. Line 9 x 13 inch ungreased pan with whole graham wafers, trimming to fit.
  2. Cook pudding with milk as directed, using only 2 1/2 cups of milk.
  3. Allow to cool; spread over graham crackers in pan.
  4. Beat cream, sugar and vanilla until stiff. Spread over pudding.
  5. Top with second layer of whole graham crackers, trimming to fit.
  6. Mix icing sugar and milk together well. It needs to be fairly thin (add more milk if necessary). Spread over cracker layer.
  7. Melt chocolate with butter (in microwave). Drizzle over top. 
  8. Chill. Let stand overnight before serving.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Vanilla Bean Butter Cookie Cutouts

This dough is a little tricky to work with.  The cookie has no egg so it is more like a shortbread than a sugar cookie.  The taste of the cookie is light, crisp and delicious.  If you want to give it a try, just be patient when rolling the dough out and you will be rewarded with a delicious cookie.  

I'm included the technique for decorating these little trees.  

It's easier than it looks and the I think quicker than piping around the edges and filling with a glaze.

Butter Vanilla Bean  Cutouts
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 2 tablespoons cream cheese (room temperature)
  • vanilla bean paste from two vanilla beans
  1. Place sugar in a blender and pulse until it is a fine consistency but not yet powdered sugar.
  2. Stir together flour and salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Beat butter, cream cheese and vanilla bean paste into the flour mixture until combined.
  4. Turn onto the counter and knead until it forms into ball.
  5. Divide into two parts, flatten into discs and wrap in plastic wrap and allow to rest for an hour.
  6. Preheat oven to 375 F and adjust oven rack to the middle of the oven.
  7. Prepare cookie sheets by greasing or lining bottom with parchment paper.
  8. Cut out cookies with cookie cutters.  You can use various sizes but do not place different sized cookies on one tray.  Larger cookies take slightly longer to bake than smaller cookies.
  9. Once all the dough has been rolled out and cookies cut out, combine the bits of dough and reroll until all the dough has been used up.  
  10. Bake for about 10 minutes or until edges of cookies begin to brown. Don't underbake these cookies.  Allow to cool on cookie sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack.  Do not place the next batch of cut outs on a warm cookie sheet.
  • 3/4 cup butter (softened)
  • 2 pounds powdered sugar / icing sugar
  • about 1/3 - 1/2 cup milk (enough to make a frosting that can be piped but holds its shape)  
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • food coloring
  1. In a mixer, beat together butter and powdered sugar until well combined.  Add milk a little bit at a time until you have the right consistency.  Add vanilla and food coloring and beat well for about 5 minutes.

Place frosting into a piping bag.  Cut a 1/8 inch small hole at the tip.

With the tree upside down, start at the middle of the base of the tree and pipe out a bit of frosting and then pull towards you to the next bough shape.

Continue to the right, always pulling the frosting towards you and towards the center.
Move to the left of the center and work your way to the left edge of the bough. 

Continue with the next bough in the same way. 

Continue in this way until you have filled the tree.

Allow cookies to dry well before freezing on a cookie tray.
After cookies are frozen you can transfer them to containers or freezer bags.

If you don't let the frosting dry before freezing, be careful when serving to keep the cookies from being plated one on top of the other.  

You can also continue to decorate with sprinkles or other colored frostings as you would decorate your own tree!  

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Pork Chops with Apples and Cranberries

As the month of December approaches, I get out my calendar and start thinking about entertaining.  
Harv and I love inviting friends to dinner during this season. 
Once the house is decorated, all I have to do is set the table and decide what to cook.
Here's one of the recipes I plan on serving.
 It was inspired by a dish we were served this fall at a lovely Vancouver Island B& B.
I made it for my husband recently and he agreed it was "fit for company!".

For the marinade:
  • 2 tablespoons Hoisin paste*
  • 2 tablespoons Rice Wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white wine or apple juice**
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar or to taste
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh or frozen ginger
  • 4 boneless pork chops (about 1 inch thick)
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 large apple
  • reserved marinade
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • water and more apple juice as needed
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch

* Hoisin paste is thicker than Hoisin sauce. Both can be found in the Asian section of the supermarket. I'm sure the sauce would work equally well.
**I've used an apple flavoured dessert wine in place of the apple juice but either is good.
  1. In a glass pint jar or gravy shaker combine first seven ingredients and shake well until well blended.
  2. Place pork chops in a zippered plastic bag and pour marinade in over them.
  3. Remove as much air as you can, seal bag and refrigerate at least 4 hours.
  4. Remove chops from marinade, dividing the marinade into two bowls.
  5. Grill pork on BBQ or pellet grill until done, basting with half of the marinade. Reserve the other half for the sauce.
  6. Meanwhile, core apple and slice it into 6 rings.
  7. In a medium frying pan, melt butter  over medium heat and saute apple rings until lightly browned on both sides. They should be just starting to soften. Do not overcook.
  8. Pour reserved marinade over apples, add cranberries and simmer until reduced by half.
  9. Remove apple rings to a bowl and cover to keep warm
  10. Mix cornstarch and more apple juice and add to mixture in pan, stirring well until thickened..  Add more water or apple juice if needed. 
  11. Taste sauce and add more brown sugar or hoisin if needed.
  12. Return apples to pan and keep warm on low heat until chops are ready.
  13. Plate chops on a serving platter or individual plates, topping each chop with an apple ring,  cranberries and a spoonful of the sauce.
  14. Serve and enjoy!
Serves 4

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Cranberry Orange Wreath

Here is a lovely addition to your holiday table, adapted from a recipe for a Cranberry Almond Wreath in an old  Robin Hood recipe Christmas recipe book.  I have made several different versions over the years and switched it up to use my favorite refrigerator roll dough.  Preparing the dough the previous day simplifies the process. This year I have omitted the almonds and added orange zest.  


  • 2 cups very warm water
  • 1/4 cup potato flakes (instant mashed potatoes)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 eggs beaten
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 2 tablespoons yeast (instant, fast rising) 
  • 6 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, packed 
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup dried cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • zest of 1 large orange
  • 2 cups icing sugar 
  • 4 T orange juice
  • zest 1 large orange
  1. Stir together the water, potato flakes, sugar and salt.
  2. Add eggs and softened butter, then yeast mixed with 3 cups flour.
  3. Beat with mixer on high speed.
  4. Add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a knead-able dough is obtained ... knead well.
  5. Place in a greased, covered bowl in the refrigerator for at least two hours or overnight.
  6. Divide dough into two equal portions.
  7. On a floured or greased surface, roll each portion of dough into a 16 x 12 inch rectangle.
  8. Spread with butter.
  9. Combine brown sugar, cinnamon, cranberries and zest and spread half the mixture over buttered dough. (Use 1/2 of this filling for each wreath.)
  10. Roll up jelly roll-style, starting with a long edge. Pinch seam to seal. Transfer to a parchment lined  pizza pan or large cookie sheet, seam side down.  Shape into a ring, pinching ends together to seal.
  11. Using kitchen shears or serrated knife, start at outside edge and cut 2/3 of the way through the ring at 1" intervals. 
  12. Separate slices slightly and twist to show filling.
  13. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled in size (at least one hour).
  14. Bake at 350° F / 190°C for 20 minutes or until golden.
  15. For glaze...mix icing sugar, orange juice and orange zest.  Spread over wreaths.
  16.  Garnish with additional chopped cranberries, if desired.
Yield: 2 wreaths
* For another version of the edible Christmas wreath, check out Anneliese's recipe for the Christmas Fruit and Nut Wreath featured in  our Celebrations cookbook.



Monday, November 28, 2016

German Gingerbread Cookies

Ah! All I had to do was take a whif of the spices that go into these cookies and I was transported into something that spelled Weihnachten! Leise Rieselt der Schnee may as well have been playing in the background. This is a recipe I stopped making once our kids got older, but it's fun to bring it back with little ones around again.  

  • 1/4 cup butter, soft
  • 1/4 cup crisco
  • 1 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 eggs
  • 6 cups flour
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 2 Tbsp Lebkuchen or Spekulatius Gewuerz*
  • 1 tsp ground star anise
  • 1 tsp cardamom
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
* These gingerbread spices can be purchased (as a pkg) from a European Deli. In Chilliwack  you can find Abstwinder Lebkuchen Gewuerz at Hofstede's Country Barn, imported from Calgary. The spices are a combination of coriander, cinnamon, cloves,anise, nutmeg, star anise, fennel, cardamom. In Abbotsford you can find Lebkuchen Gewuerz at the Windmill Deli.

  1. In mixing bowl cream butter and crisco. Add eggs and honey, beating in well.
  2. Stir in combined dry ingredients. Using a kitchen machine such as a Kitchen Aid with a hook attachment is helpful.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for 5 days to let flavors blend.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 F and prepare baking sheets by greasing - or line with parchment paper.
  5. Let dough sit at room temp for about 15 minutes. Divide into three parts.
  6. Lightly dust work surface with flour and work dough into a flat round shape by turning and using the heel of your hand. Roll out, using a fine dusting of flour, to dinner plate size. About 1/3 inch thickness. Cut with desired cookie shapes. 
  7. Bake for 9 minutes or until lighlty browned underneath. Ice or decorate with Boiled Icing.
  8. Store in airtight container in cool place. The cookies just get better as they age. 
  9. Yield: 24 large gingerbread men plus approximately 20 regular sized cookies, such as star shapes.
Boiled sugar-meringue icing ( make 2 times for 4 dozen cookies)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 egg white
  1. In a medium glass bowl, beat egg white until soft peaks form when you lift beater. Set aside.
  2. In saucepan, over low / medium heat, bring water and sugar to a boil, while stiring.
  3. Once it keeps boiling, even while stirring, set timer on 3 minutes.
  4. Keep stirring, while liquid becomes totally bubbly, making sure sugar does not harden on sides of pot. Stir until it begins to feel slightly syrupy, about 2 - 3 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat. Slowly, pour into beaten egg white, while mixer is going. (I hold a handmixer with my right hand and pour hot liquid with my left.) 
  6. Beat for about 2 minutes, until glossy and stiff. Fill piping bag if you wish to outline, or spread by teaspoons onto cookies, using the back of the spoon to smooth. Sprinkle with sugar sprinkles while wet. Allow to dry until hard. (several hours or overnight)
Hint: this icing can dry quickly, so cover any icing left in the bowl with a wet tea towel. If icing becomes slightly crustly, add a tsp of water and beat with mixer for a few seconds.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Bread for the Journey

 You’re blessed when you stay on course,
    walking steadily on the road revealed by God.
You’re blessed when you follow his directions,
    doing your best to find him.
That’s right—you don’t go off on your own;
    you walk straight along the road he set.
You, God, prescribed the right way to live;
    now you expect us to live it.
Oh, that my steps might be steady,
    keeping to the course you set;
Then I’d never have any regrets
    in comparing my life with your counsel.
I thank you for speaking straight from your heart;
    I learn the pattern of your righteous ways.
I’m going to do what you tell me to do;
    don’t ever walk off and leave me.
Psalm 119:1-8 The Message

How exactly do we stay on track and in the center of God's will, when there are so many distractions pulling us in every direction? 
I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.  Isaiah 48:17 

Only God can help us to see the possibilities and potential that we have...and the path we should be taking. His words will give us strength when we are feeling down and keep us on the right track.

God will show me the path of life. Psalm 16:11

When we don't know which is the right decision and aren't sure which choice will keep us on course, we need to spend some time with God.  He will show us.  And then it is our choice to stay on the path...or not.

Dear God, today I will choose to follow you.  I trust you completely and know that nothing can separate me from your love.  Lead me as I walk on the path of life.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

A Few Tips on Herbs

 I've just a few pictures today of some handy ways to cut up your fresh herbs.
Here in the Lower Mainland of the Fraser Valley we usually have mild wet winters so some of our herbs will survive the winter.

Rosemary is very hardy. I've been able to use it fresh almost all winter.

Some Sage leaves may turn yellow and drop but now in November, there are still plenty of fresh leaves to snip.

Basil, on the other hand, wilts quickly when the cool damp weather hits so I buy it in bunches at our local produce market.  Although it doesn't work all the time, I find if I keep the fresh basil in a vase on the windowsill, it will sometimes take root and stay fresh for longer. I could even plant this now and have a lovely fresh plant all winter long.
One tip about Basil - do not store it in the fridge or allow the leaves to get damp.  They will turn colour and wilt quickly. Wrap it loosely in paper towel and store in an open plastic bag.

The best way to snip Rosemary is to strip the leaves off of the stem into a small cup.
Hold the stem of rosemary at the top and slide your fingers down the stem to release the needles into your cup.  Then simply take your kitchen scissors and point the tip into the bottom of the cup, snipping until the Rosemary is fine enough for your use.

You can use the cup and scissors method for other fresh herbs such as dill, parsley and cilantro.

For Chives, snip your chives into 4 or 5 inch lengths and then snip the whole bunch at once into the desired size.

To cut up fresh Basil. stack the leaves.
Cut lengthwise down the centre vein and stack again

Then slice the stacked leaves into a chiffonade.  If you want longer strands of basil,leave the leaves whole before slicing and if you want finer pieces, cut the leaves one more time lengthwise before slicing them crosswise.

Fresh herbs spark up any dish and are now readily available year round in most major grocery stores and produce markets so go ahead and enjoy them all year round.