Thursday, December 31, 2015

Chile Relleno Breakfast Bake

 This would be a nice meal to have on New Year's Day watching the Rose Parade or football games. Serve it with some chunky salsa.

Ingredients:
4-4oz. cans of whole green chillies
4 cups of shredded Cheddar Jack cheese combination
12 eggs
2 cups sour cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
Chunky salsa of your choice (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare 9 x 13 dish by greasing lightly.
Remove and drain the whole green chillies.
Slit the chillies open and lay flat covering the bottom of the dish.
Sprinkle the chillies with the cheese.
Beat the eggs, sour cream, and salt until thoroughly blended.
Pour over cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until center is set.
Let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Serve with your favorite salsa.
Yield: 8-10 servings

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Cheese Stuffed Jalapeno Boats


Ring in the New Year with some spice added to your buffet! The main ideas in this recipe come from a Canadian Living magazine. These little boats can be prepared ahead and refrigerated, to put in the oven later. Half a recipe works well for a small group appetizer.

Ingredients:

  • 10 - 12 large fresh jalapeno peppers
  • 150 g boursin cheese ( I used cranberry, pepper)
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded cheese (I used Mexican blend)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • good dash of pepper
  • 4 Tbsp bread crumbs mixed with 4 Tbsp additional shredded cheese
  1. Cut peppers in half, lengthwise, right down the center of the stem so that each piece has a stem. Scrape out the seeds.
  2. Mix cheeses, lemon juice and pepper and spoon into boats, using a tiny spoon.
  3. Top with crumb and cheese mix and arrange on parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  4. Bake at 375 F for about 30 minutes. 


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Hot Pizza Dip


Think of this as a pizza without the dough!  Combine all your favorite pizza ingredients in a hot dip and serve with taco chips, crackers or breadsticks. It is easy to prepare in advance and keep refrigerated.  And with New Year's Eve coming up...this may be just the recipe you need. 




  • 8oz / 250g cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3/4 cup pizza sauce (your favorite...but we like it 'hot'!)
  • pepperoni, small pieces
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped (red, green or yellow or a combination of colours)
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  1. Blend cream cheese, sour cream and seasonings.
  2. Spread in a 9" pie plate or quiche pan.
  3. Spread pizza sauce over base.
  4. Top with pepperoni pieces and chopped peppers.
  5. Spread cheese over top.
  6. Bake at 350°F for 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and edges are golden. 









Monday, December 28, 2015

New Years Eve Punch



We have all just finished Christmas and I hope you have all had a few down days before the New Year celebrations begin.  We all have our favorite go-to recipes for almost anything. Today I'm sharing with you my favorite punch recipe that I've used for years and years and I'm always asked to share this recipe over and over again.  New Years Eve is just around the corner and here's a special drink.  Today, I've shown you how to make a simple ice ring using some of your favorite ingredients. A perfect touch for ringing in the New Year.  Thanks to Pinterest!

Punch Recipe
  • 1 can frozen orange juice (12 oz.)
  • 1 can frozen pink lemonade (12 oz.)
  • 9 cups water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup grenadine
  • 2 litres gingerale 
  • limes, lemons, mint leaves, pomegranates, cranberries, fruits ( to make the ice ring)

Ice Ring Instructions
  1. First make your ice ring, preferably the night before.
  2. Fill your bundt pan or any round tube pan with 1/3 water and freeze.
  3. When frozen lay your fruits on top. Use fruits and herbs that compliment your flavors.
  4. Pour enough water over the ingredients to cover by 1-2 inches (to keep them from floating to the top).
  5. When ready to use, turn tube upside down and let warm water help release it from the pan.
  6. Place it into your ready made punch bowl.
Punch Recipe
  1. Combine thawed juices and water into a large punch bowl.
  2. Add lemon juice and grenadine.
  3. Add your gingerale just prior to serving.
  4. Place your ice ring on top. 
  5. This recipe doubled, yields enough for 30-35 people.

Friday, December 25, 2015

The Light of Christmas

Extending Love-filled Wishes for
a Blessed Christmas season to You and Yours
From all of us , 
Anneliese, Betty, Bev, Charlotte, Ellen, Judy, Julie, Kathy, Lovella, Marg, 



There are always people who want to take Christ out of Christmas,
but no one is willing to celebrate the season without lights!
My own childhood awe and delight 
gazing at the beautiful display of Christmas lights 
was the same awe and delight reflected on the faces of my grandchildren
many years later. 
I still enjoy the profusion of lights 
that decorate people's homes and front yards for the holiday season.

 Like most people, if I suddenly find myself in the dark, 
the uppermost thought in my mind is to find a light.  
We do not enjoy being in the dark.

 As lights shine best in the darkness of night .... 
so also the Light of the World came to shine in the darkness of  a sinful, needy world. 
He was the great Light - sent by God - Jesus, our Saviour

Isaiah, many years before Jesus was born as a babe in Bethlehem,
 rejoiced to see His coming .
"Arise, shine, for your light has come! 
and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. 
For behold the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people.. 
But the Lord will arise over you and His glory will be seen upon you !"
  Isaiah 60:1

 In a world that is increasingly dark around us,
 Jesus still comes to bring us light - 
and His comforting message was and is ... 'Fear not!'  

"I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me 
should not abide in darkness." 
John 12:46

I read a beautiful story written by Helen Grace Leisheit .  that took place shortly before Christmas in 1944. 
It was told to her by her great aunt  who grew up in Neider-Chortitza, 
a Mennonite village in the Ukraine. 
Helen is a free lance author and she gave me permission to link the story here.

Read it and be blessed !  


Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve 2015



It's Christmas Eve and it's become my family's tradition to serve Raclette.
Many years ago our neighbours, newly immigrated from Switzerland, introduced this winter Swiss meal with us and it wasn't long before I went out and bought a Raclette oven for our family.

This year, Harv and I were privileged to host the MGCC West Christmas Party and 
decided to share this tradition with them.
(Betty and Charlotte and their husbands enjoyed a MGCC East Christmas party in Manitoba.)
Only one of the girls had ever had Raclette before and it was fun to introduce the others to it.

Here is how Raclette is done:
You'll need a Raclette oven which has a grill surface on top with a broiler element below it
 and a place for 6 -8 individual trays beneath the element.
Raclette ovens are available in most kitchen stores.


Photo by Lovella Scehllenberg

The Raclette oven is placed in the middle of the table
so that everyone has access to it. 
A variety of meats is offered to cook on the grill surface.  
We usually serve marinated flank steak slices, farmer sausage or ham and prawns.
(Chicken is not recommended because of contamination issues.)
Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses are sliced into 1/2" pieces and passed around the table.
Each person puts a slice of cheese into their tray and then slides the tray beneath the broiler element.
Along with the cheese, you can add garlic butter, diced sweet peppers, diced green onions and/or sliced mushrooms to the trays.
When the cheese has melted and begins to get crusty, the tray is removed from the oven and the melted cheese is poured over boiled potatoes and/or sliced French bread.
Sweet gherkins and cocktail onions, dill pickles and fresh vegetables are served alongside the melted cheese and grilled meats.

Photo by Lovella Schellenberg

It's a lovely way to spend an evening with friends and family. 
Our young grandchildren are delighted to cook their own food at the table alongside the adults.

The Mennonite Girls and their husbands enjoyed this new experience and I know of one for sure who purchased a Raclette within the first week and has since served it to family and friends.

Tonight, whatever your tradition or activity,
 I pray that you will experience the coming of the Christ child in your life.
May His love fill you with peace and joy.





Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Chelsea Buns


These delicious orange zest infused sticky buns may just become a must for your Christmas brunch. The recipe is small, easy and quick to prepare . . . and if you don't have time in the morning, simply bake ahead, leave in pan, cover with foil and reheat before inverting onto plate.

Ingredients:

Sticky topping:

  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp honey
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cups chopped pecans
dough:
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp instant or fine quick acting yeast
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 Tbsp oil 
  • 3 cups flour, divided
  • 2 eggs
filling:
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • zest from one medium orange

Method:
  1. Line 9 x 9 pan (for 9 buns) or 9 x 13 pan (for 12 buns) with parchment paper
  2. In mixing bowl begin with sugar, yeast and salt. Add hot tap water and let sit for a few minutes, until frothy looking. (you can use a kitchen aid with bread hook attachment or a mixing bowl and a wooden spoon)
  3. In the meantime, melt butter for topping, adding the rest of the ingredients except for the nuts. Bring to boil. Pour into prepared pan and sprinkle evenly with nuts.
  4. To yeast mix in bowl, add oil and 1 cup flour and then the eggs, mixing them in well.
  5. Stir in the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time until you can knead and shape it into a soft ball, not too sticky if handled with a dusting of flour. Cover and let rise 20 - 30 minutes.
  6. While the dough is rising, melt butter for spreading and mix all the filling ingredients.
  7. Roll dough out on floured surface to about 10 x 12 or 14 inches. Spread with butter and filling.
  8. Roll up, starting on long side. Cut into 9 or 12 pieces, depending on how big in height you wish them to be or how many you are serving) and place on top of sticky topping in pan.
  9. Cover loosely with plastic and let rise another 20 - 30 minutes, until they don't have room to spread any more. 
  10. Bake at 350 F for about 25 - 30 minutes until golden brown. ( lesser time for larger pan)
  11. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Cover with serving plate and carefully flip buns onto plate. Serve warm.


If your kitchen is warm, these take about 1 1/2 hours from start to finish. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Applesauce Cake Roll

My mom used to made this Applesauce Cake Roll years ago and I had tried it once in the past and decided to try it again. It makes a nice dessert that isn't too sweet and is festive. I made a couple mistakes and will improve on my cake rolling the next time around. My company did not mind it's imperfection!

Ingredients:
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup sifted flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Powdered sugar (icing sugar) for dusting

Filling:
12 oz. of cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Beat eggs till thick.
Gradually add sugar beating well.
Add 1/2 cup applesauce.
Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt & cloves.
Fold into egg mixture along with the walnuts.
Spread in greased and floured 15 x 10 x 1 jelly roll pan. I updated this step and used parchment paper that I lightly greased.
Bake in 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.
Immediately loosen sides and invert onto a kitchen towel.
Pull parchment paper off and cover with powdered sugar.
Roll the cake in the towel and let it cool completely. It will be a nicer roll if you roll it on the short side.
Prepare the filling by beating the cream cheese, sugar and milk together till smooth.
When the cake has cooled unfold it and spread the filling evenly on the cake.
Roll the cake again carefully, discarding the towel.
Wrap the whole cake with foil (I sprayed the foil with cooking spray) and freeze. This will make it easy to cut when ready to serve.
When ready to serve, unwrap the cake, dust with powdered sugar (icing sugar) cut slices and serve with ice cream or whip cream.

I've got room for improvement but my beginner attempt was well received and devoured.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Cream Cheese Christmas Tree

Here is a festive appetizer that you can put together with no fuss or stress. All it takes is a few minutes and voila, you have this.


You need:

  • 1 - 8 oz brick of cream cheese
  • jalapeno pepper jelly
  • red and yellow pepper
  1. Cut the cream cheese at a diagonal.
  2. Place the two long sides together to form a triangle.
  3. Cover in with the jalapeno jelly
  4. Decorate with finely diced red pepper, top with a yellow pepper star. Unfortunately I didn't have a yellow pepper for the star, but when I make it again for Christmas eve I will. 
  5. Serve with crackers. 
So very tasty and easy. Thank you Pinterest for the idea. 



Sunday, December 20, 2015

Bread for the Journey

The Giver of Gifts 


Christmas is the season of love and family and gifts.  
Yes, gifts can be a wrong focus and the cause of stress and tension and overspending, 
but I have been seeing a change in people's attitude
from
gift-giving having to be "bigger and more and better"  
 to
a heart desire focused on giving  "thoughtful gifts".

When it comes to 'bigger and better' there is One who can never be out-done or out-given!  
The One whose birth we celebrate this season - but let us not forget that it is not the 'baby' but the God in human flesh that we celebrate and He is the reason for our joy. 

We had a guest couple from Samaritan's Purse come to speak to our church's women's group about the Christmas shoe boxes that bless children around the world every Christmas. 
The husband's name was Gordon and he showed us a mind-blowing video of what happens to the shoe boxes we pack and drop off at church or some collection depot.  
The boxes all end up in huge warehouses to prepare them for overseas shipping
 - Gordon and his wife were involved with the Calgary warehouse. 

After showing the video, he shared a personal experience - a story that I will never forget!
He had traveled with a shipment of boxes - on route to the country of assigned destination -
 to watch first hand the boxes being distributed to the children.

 The distribution day came and he gathered with the children
 that so patiently waited to receive their box.
Feeling their barely contained excited, he turned to the little girl sitting beside him
and asked her,
"What do you want to see in your box? What are you hoping for?"   
There was no hesitation in her reply.
 "I want a mommy and daddy in my box."   
Gordon's heart clenched as he gently said,
"I'm so sorry, 
but I don't think a mommy and daddy will be in your box."   
The child was not deterred,
"Oh yes, there will be. 
I prayed, I asked God and He said there would be.
I know He will give me a mommy and daddy in my box."

Gordon watched, with trepidation, as finally, a box was handed to the little girl
and she eagerly opened it. 
It was filled with the normal little gifts that delight a girl her age, 
but on the side of the box was an envelope.  
They opened the envelope and inside was a note that said,
 "Whatever boy or girl opens this box, we want to adopt them!"
Her Mommy and Daddy WERE in the box ! 
The wheels were set in motion and the Michigan couple who had written the note 
adopted the little girl.  
Their church was so moved by the unfolding of this story,
 that other couples adopted children as well.  
All God needed was the faith of a little girl !  
What kind of faith do you have? How big is your God? 

"Without faith it is impossible 
to please Him,  who says ... 
Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. 
Is there anything too hard for Me?" 
Heb.11:6 and Jer.32:27


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Butter Tart Squares


Are you craving a butter tart but don't want to fuss with the pasty? These squares are quick and easy to bake up. The filling sits over a shortbread style crust. These Butter Tart squares do not have nuts or raisins. I doubled the recipe and baked it in a small baking sheet. The recipe below fits into a 9x9 pan.
  • 1 1/3 cup flour
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter (do not substitute this with margarine)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter (again, do not substitute this with margarine)
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp flour
  1. Stir together first amount of flour and white sugar.
  2. Cut in cold butter until very fine crumb. Press into lightly buttered pan, or pan lined with parchment.
  3. Bake in 350º oven for 12 minutes. 
  4. While crust is baking beat together eggs and brown sugar.
  5. Add remaining ingredients and blend well with a hand beater. 
  6. Pour this mixture over the warm crust.
  7. Bake in 350º oven for 30 minutes.
  8. Remove and allow to cool in pan. Cut and store in air tight container. Freeze well. 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Salted Toffee Pretzel Bark



It's Flashback Friday and I'm bringing back a quick and simple holiday treat that is a favorite over here. If you like a toffee and chocolate combination with a touch of salt...this is for you. It's not too late to add this to your Christmas baking list.  Truth is...if you make it today you may need to make another batch by Christmas!
 
  • 1 bag mini pretzels (you will need 4 or 5 cups)
  • 1 cup butter (the real thing)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 340 gr / 12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 2 cups)
  • Sea salt (optional)
  1. Line 11 x 17 inch bar pan with parchment paper.
  2. Cover the bottom with a layer of pretzels.
  3. Combine butter and brown sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a full boil while stirring.
  4. Pour carefully over the pretzels.
  5. Place in a 350° F oven for 8 minutes, or until bubbly all over.
  6. Remove from oven and sprinkle evenly with chocolate chips.
  7. Let sit for a minute to melt the chocolate. 
  8. Then smooth surface with a spatula.
  9. Sprinkle with sea salt if desired.
  10. Cool to room temperature.
  11. Place in freezer for 10-15 minutes to harden chocolate topping.
  12. Remove from the pan and break into bite sized portions.  
* These can easily be cut into bars as well.  Lift the hardened confection onto a cutting board and cut into bars using a sharp knife or pizza cutter.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Green Beans with Cranberries and Walnuts



This recipe is a lovely compliment for your Christmas dinner. The citrus brightens the flavor of frozen green beans and gives them a fresh taste.
Serves 6-8
  • 1 kg frozen green beans
  • 3 cloves of garlic, slivered
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • handful of dried cranberries
  • 1 cup of toasted nuts, chopped (walnuts were my choice)
  • 1 lime, zested and juiced
  1. Roast the green beans and garlic drizzled with olive oil  at 425 for about 20 or minutes or until they begin to turn color.
  2. Toss with the lime zest and juice, add cranberries and toasted walnuts. Serve on a platter. 


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Marshmallow Popcorn Balls..Gift from the Kitchen


Years ago popcorn balls were part of the Christmas candy assortment that was offered after the big Christmas dinner at my in-laws home. My MIL made them with a boiled syrup mixture instead of marshmallows. It was a sweet treat for the children and adults alike.
I haven't made popcorn balls in a very long time and so decided to do so again this year. I rolled some in sprinkles, some with candies, and the rest I left plain. Feel free to add and decorate as you wish. Can you imagine the excitement in a little child's face when you hold out a basket of popcorn balls and say 'you can pick one'?
  • 12 cups popped corn (1/2 cup unpopped corn kernels) 
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 4 cups mini marshmallows
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Sprinkles or candies
  1. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until melted.
  2. Add marshmallows. Cook until marshmallows are completely melted, stirring constantly.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt. 
  4. Place popcorn in a large bowl and add marshmallow mixture, mix until well coated.
  5. Moisten hands frequently with water as you shape mixture into balls. Roll them in sprinkles or press candies into the balls.
  6. Place on parchment or waxed paper and let sit until firm. They will firm up more quickly if you refrigerate them.
  7. Wrap up in cellophane or small plastic bags and your little treats are ready to hand out!


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Coconut Meringue Sheet Pie



If you are wondering what to make for your family gathering dessert over Christmas, consider this large creamy coconut cookie sheet dessert that will feed 20 generously or it can be cut to feed 25 or 30.  It's best on the day it is made but it can be made first thing in the morning and chilled until ready to serve. 

Coconut Shortbread Crust
  • 2 cup flour
  • 4 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup fine unsweetened coconut
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  1. Mix together with a fork and press into a 13 X 18 X 1 cookie sheet. 
  2. Bake @350º for 14 - 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool.
Coconut Cream Filling
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 1/3  cups / 2 400 ml cans unsweetened light coconut milk
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2/3 cup  whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 12 egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup fine unsweetened coconut
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons  butter
  1. Combine sugar, coconut milk and regular milk and cream in a medium saucepan.
  2. In a separate bowl combine, egg yolks, cornstarch and salt. Whisk till frothy and well combined.
  3. Heat first mixture in saucepan over medium heat stirring constantly until it just begins to steam. Remove from heat. Slowly pour about 1/2 cup of the hot milk mixture into the beaten egg mixture stirring constantly until very smooth.
  4. Stirring constantly pour egg mixture into saucepan with hot milk. Place saucepan back onto medium heat and cook until mixture begins to thicken. Stirring is key to keeping filling from scorching and also making it creamy smooth. 
  5. Stir in coconut, vanilla and butter. Stir well.
  6. Pour hot filling into prepared baked crust.  Make meringue immediately and put over hot filling.
Meringue Topping
  • 12 egg whites
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fine unsweetened coconut
  1. Beat egg whites until frothy.  Slowly add sugar and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
  2. Spread evenly over hot filling.
  3. Sprinkle with coconut. 
  4. Bake in 325 F. oven until lightly browned.
  5. Allow to cool to room temperature and then chill until ready to serve, about 4 hours.



Monday, December 14, 2015

Jello Cake

Looking for a nice light dessert to serve in all the holiday celebrations? Look no further. This dessert brings back childhood memories for me and is definitely a vintage dessert having stood the test of time and is still delicious today. This recipe is my friend Carolyn's version of the dessert. Cherry Jello is my personal favorite but you can change it to any flavor you like.



  • 3-4 sleeves of graham crackers (my pan is not quite 9x13 and only needs three sleeves, but some comments say they use 4 sleeves of crackers)
  • 1 large package of cherry flavored jello (170g)
  • 2 cups boiling water 
  • 4 cups of ice cubes
  • 500 ml whip cream (2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons icing sugar
  1. Boil 2 cups of water and dissolve package of cherry jello, stir well.
  2. Add 4 cups of ice cubes until it begins to thicken, remove excess ice cubes that will no longer melt. 
  3. Whip the cream until stiff with the icing sugar.
  4. In a 9x13 pan, dot the bottom of the pan with whipped cream so the first layer of graham wafers stay in place.
  5. Add a layer of graham wafers covering the bottom of the pan. If the cake pan has rounded edges break the corners to fit better.
  6. Add half the whipped cream covering the entire surface of the wafers. 
  7. Add another layer of graham wafers.
  8. Gently pour half of the almost set the jello and spread from corner to corner. 
  9. Add another layer of graham wafers on top of the jello. 
  10. Repeat layers, with the jello on top as shown in the picture. 

Don't worry if the jello looks lumpy it usually sets completely smooth.
Let it set in the refrigerator overnight or a minimum of 8 hours. 
What an easy festive dessert, it quickly becomes a favorite.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Bread for the Journey




There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
~Isaiah 11:1 ESV


Lo, how a Rose e’er blooming
from tender stem hath sprung!
of Jesse’s lineage coming,
as those of old have sung.
It came, a floweret bright,
amid the cold of winter,
when half spent was the night.

Isaiah ’twas foretold it,
the Rose I have in mind;
Mary we behold it,
the Virgin Mother kind.
To show God’s love aright,
she bore to us a Savior,
when half spent was the night.

O Flower, whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispel with glorious splendour
The darkness everywhere;
True man, yet very God,
From sin and death now save us,
And share our every load.

Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming is a song often heard during the advent season. It was originally written in 1599 in Cologne, Germany...inspired by the prophecy of Isaiah.  Several hundred years later it was translated into English.

This carol takes me back to my childhood...where I heard it sung by choirs in both German and English and playing from the old hi-fi stereo next to the Christmas tree during the Christmas season. What a beautiful picture! Christ is portrayed as the rose who has come to bring us beauty in our winter and light in our darkness. He is our 'forever-blooming' rose!

During this advent season, may you find music that moves your soul. And more importantly, may you experience the Christ of Christmas!

Christmas blessings to you...

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Caramel Peacan Chocolate Squares - Gluten Free




Have you finished your baking for Christmas?   These squares are perfect as a delectable holiday treat - or any time you need something special!  They are good keepers and freeze well to bring out when needed over the holiday season. They are maybe a bit of extra work .. but are really worth it!

  • 1 cup butter 
  • 1/2 cup of chocolate chips 
  • 1  1/3 cup Julie's Flour mix 
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum 
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder 
  • 1/4 tsp salt 
  • 4 lg eggs 
  • 1 tsp vanilla 
  • 5 cup mini-marshmallows
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped pecans 
  1. Spread chopped pecans on baking sheet and toast in oven 8 minutes - 350 degree 
  2. Melt butter and the chocolate chips on low heat 
  3. Pour melted butter and chips into mixing bowl. 
  4. Add dry ingredients and eggs and vanilla and beat until smooth 
  5. Pour into  15 x 10 " pan - lined with parchment paper - spread batter evenly
  6. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees. 
  7. Remove from oven and spread marshmallows evenly over the top.  
  8. Return to over for about 10 more minutes, until marshallows are melted and turning golden.
  9. Remove from oven and sprinkle the pecans on top of the marshmallows. 
  10. Drizzle  top with caramel sauce
  11. Pipe melted chocolate criss-cross over top of caramel  chips 
  12. Let cool before cutting into squares. 
Caramel Sauce 
  • 3/8 cup butter 
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar 
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla 
  1. Melt butter 
  2. Add brown sugar - cook until smooth 
  3. Add cream and vanilla and simmer for 20 minutes.  It will thicken as it cools.
Tip -  I discovered this by 'accident' but it works really well  - a quick way to drizzle is to use a slotted tablespoon.  Scoop up a spoonful of caramel sauce and move the spoon over the pan ... it will come out in a nice even stream.

Melted Chocolate
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips 
  • 3-4 tbsp cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla 
  • 1 tbsp butter    
  1. Pour 2" of water in small sauce pan and bring to boil 
  2. Put chips/cream/butter/vanilla in mug and set in boiling water with a metal jar lid underneath - until chips are melted and mixture is smooth. 
  3. Place in piping bag and pipe over squares.  


Friday, December 11, 2015

A Merry Hummus Appetizer


There really isn't an recipe for these fun Christmas appetizers. I'll give you a list of the things you need to create them and you could be as creative as you want to be.

Cut a round piece of pita or naan into the tree shapes.
Push a pretzel stick in the bottom of the tree shape.
Mix enough drops of green coloring into a tub of your favorite hummus to make it green.
Spread the green hummus on each tree wedge.
Now the fun begins as you decorate the trees with diced red pepper, chopped pimento, green peppers, or diced cucumber.
If I would have had a yellow pepper on hand I would have cut a yellow pepper star for the top.
You don't have to, but I toasted my naan lightly before I added the toppings.

Tip: Cut the veggie decorations for the trees in advance so you are ready to go once the hummus is spread onto the pita or naan. Be more creative than me and zig zag your decorations all over the tree.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dinner Party Green Salad

I really enjoy beautifully presented foods. Using a platter rather than a bowl for a salad allows every ingredient to stand out and make for an artistic and colourful addition to any dinner party. Salads are often just any unique combination of vegetable or fruits you like.  Be creative. For my dinner party I chose to combine the tenderness of roasted butternut squash along with crunchy Kale, cabbage salad, a sprinkling of sweet sparkly pomegranate seeds, and paired the salad with my Fig Salad Dressing.
  • 4 cups bagged Kale Cabbage Salad mix, or any of your favourite salad green mix (I like the Kale Mix because it's a healthy choice, and is very nice and crunchy.
  • 1/4 cup paper thin slices red onion
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red pepper
  • 1/2 cup thin strips jacima
  • 2 cups cubed butternut squash, roasted 
  • pomegranate seeds
  • Fig salad dressing 
  1. Wash, peel and seed one small butternut squash. Cut into small cubes. Place on a baking sheet lined with foil and drizzle with a few teaspoons olive oil. Roast in 400º oven for 10 minutes. Gently stir and roast another 5-10 minutes until just tender. You don't want them to be too soft and get mushy. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, place in a bowl, cover and let them get cold and firm in the refrigerator. 
  2. Place prepared salad greens (wash and dry well if not done already) in the centre of platter.
  3. Top with red onions, red peppers and jacima.
  4. Place cool butternut squash cubes around greens and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.
  5. Serve with Fig salad dressing on the side. 
Don't forget to add a small garnish such as a tomato, radish flower, carrot curls or parsley. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pomegranate or Berry Sangria (non-alcoholic)



Although you would expect to add wine to an authentic sangria, this spiced fruity punch-like drink is delicious just as it is. It goes well with appetizers. In the summer I like to add blueberries, blackberries and some ice cubes,  while at Christmas it looks festive with pomegranate seeds and cranberries floating on top. I credit the main ideas to the kitchn  and I'll share a large recipe (to serve 16). For a smaller group I'd do half.

Ingredients:
  • 4 cups boiling water
  • 4  chai tea bags (I used Bengal Spice) 
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6 cups pomegranate/berry juice
  • 1/2 tin frozen concentrate OJ
  • 2 medium oranges sliced thinly
  • 1 medium lemon, sliced thinly
  • 1 medium lime, sliced thinly
  • 2 cups berries (mix of blueberries and blackberries) or seeds of 1 pomegranate 
  • 6 cups carbonated water
  1. Steep tea and cinnamon sticks for five to ten minutes.
  2. Discard bags and stir in the sugar.
  3. Pour into a very large pitcher and add the rest of the ingredients, minus the club soda.
  4. Refrigerate for at least one hour or all day.
  5. Add club soda before serving.
  6. This works well in a punch bowl if you like to scoop up the fruit with it. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Easy Loaded Potato Bites


This is a great treat to make when you have no idea what to make for an appetizer. I find I usually have all these ingredients on hand.
A mandoline is the quickest way to slice these potatoes so if you don't have one, and someone is looking for ideas, you might want to add one onto your Christmas wish list.  I use mine almost daily.

  • 2 pounds petite potatoes (they often come in a package of white, red and blue potatoes)
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup sharp cheddar, finely shredded
  • 1/2 cup ready crisp real bacon bits 
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  1. Wash potatoes and thinly slice no more than 1/4 inch thick.
  2. Coat both sides of potatoes with oil and arrange in a single layer on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  3. Bake at 400 F for about half an hour or until potatoes have browned on both sides.
  4. Remove from oven, sprinkle with shredded cheese and bacon bits and return to oven until cheese has melted.
  5. Garnish each potato slice with sour cream and chopped green onions.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Chai Tea Cookies


A wonderful cookie to enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea during the Christmas season! I used vanilla chai tea in this recipe but you could use any tea. Another unique cookie to add to my cookie tray. I think dipping the cookies in chocolate would be very good too.
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla chai tea (2 tea bags)
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  1. Cream butter until light colored, gradually add sugars mixing until creamy.
  2. Add eggs, one at a time beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla.
  3. Whisk together dry ingredients. Open tea bags and whisk tea leaves into the dry ingredients.
  4. Comine creamed and dry ingredients until well blended. Stir in almonds.
  5. Refrigerate dough for an hour, place half of the dough on a piece of waxed paper and shape into desired roll, repeat with the second half of the dough, the rolls can be round or rectangular. The dough is sticky, using a knife helps to shape the rolls. Roll up in the waxed paper and freeze.
  6. Freeze 4 hours, cut in 1/4" slices and place on parchment lined cookie sheets.
  7. Bake in 375º oven for 8 to 10 minutes until edges of cookies turn golden brown.
  8. Yield: 3 1/2 dozen

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Bread for the Journey

 

On this second Sunday of Advent as we continue our preparations to celebrate the coming of our savior to this earth I would like to share this prayer from the apostle Paul.

Philippians 1: 3-11 (NIV).
" I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God."

May our God fill you with the love, joy, hope and peace of Christ our Savior.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Coffee Table Munchies


Just a quick idea for a healthy coffee table snack. Begin with one kind or a variety of shelled or un-shelled nuts such as walnuts, hazelnuts or pistachios.  Add an assortment of dried fruit such as cranberries, apples, apricots, banana chips and mango. Depending on how large your platter and the people who will be around, you may like to throw in some pretzels or candy. I like the look of star anise and cinnamon sticks in the mix, just for looks of course. And that's it for today. Enjoy!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Oma's Soft Cream Cookies

I recently made 6 times the recipe for a wedding event which gave over 700 cookies since it was one of the bride's favorite cookies and thought it would be a good Flashback Friday recipe. It is that time of year again where the home smells of sweet delights baking in the kitchen. If you like peppermint cookies but don't have access to baking ammonia or would rather not use it, you can add 3 teaspoons of peppermint extract to make them peppermint cookies.






Some cookies are just a sweet reminder of days gone by, and I have fond memories of these soft and delicately sweet cookies. Do you remember these when you were growing up?
  • 2 cups sour cream, or whipping cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup of margarine or butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 5 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons baking powder (yes that is the correct amount)
  1. Mix margarine sugar beating well
  2. add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition
  3. mix in the vanilla
  4. Mix dry ingredients together
  5. add into the egg mixture stir alternately with the sour cream.
  6. This dough is soft and should be in the fridge over night, so it can be rolled out easily the next day. When you roll out the dough, flour the counter and over the dough liberally because the dough is a bit sticky. 
  7. Roll out dough on floured surface just over a 1/4" in thickness, into desired shapes.
  8. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes watching carefully not to brown. They taste best looking whitish.
You may choose to ice them when cooled with the following glaze.

Glaze
2 cups icing sugar mixed with cream til it is a thick but spreadable constancy.
Add a few drops of food coloring if desired.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Lemon Butter Cookies - Gluten Free



These are a lovely  cookie to add to your Christmas baking. They have a shortbread texture with a lemon flavour. My husband likes these cookies, not just for their lemon flavour, but because they have no baking powder or baking soda in them.

  • 1 cup butter - salted 
  • 3/4 cup sugar 
  • 1 lg. egg 
  • zest of one lemon or more
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla 
  • 1 3/4 cups Julie's Flour Blend + 1 rounded tablespoon 
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • sweet rice flour - for handling the dough
  1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. Add egg and beat well. 
  3. Add lemon zest and vanilla.
  4. Blend well the xanthan gum into the flour 
  5. Using as little sweet rice flour as needed, you can either roll this dough out or form walnut size balls and place on parchment lined cookie sheets.
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes ...  just until the edges begin to turn golden. 
  7. Ice and decorate as desired - I used colored sugar crystals. 
Icing 
  • juice of 1/2 lemon 
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tbsp cream
  • about 1 1/2 cups icing sugar 

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Mini Peppers with Cheese Filling




Here is an appetizer that is easy to put together ahead of time and ready to pop in the oven as guests arrive.   They are not as spicy as Jalapeno Poppers but have enough zip to give them a great flavour.
  • 1 pound bag sweet mini peppers
  • 1 227 gram / 8 ounce container spreadable Jalapeno Cream Cheese
  • 1/4 cup instant dry potato flakes
  • 1 egg
  • 8 mozzarella snack style cheese sticks
  • 1 cup panko (japanese style) bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  1. Line an oven proof baking dish with parchment paper.
  2. Slice mini peppers in half including the stem in half as best as you can.  The stem makes a little handle to eat the pepper.  Remove seeds.  Arrange on baking dish.
  3. Combine Jalapeno Cream Cheese, instant potato flakes and egg in a medium bowl.
  4. Divid Cream Cheese mixture between all the pepper halves.
  5. Slice mozzarella sticks into half lengthwise and then into thirds. Place one mozzarella stick onto each pepper half.
  6. Combine melted butter, bread crumbs and paprika.
  7. Top each pepper half with crumbs.
  8. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes or until golden brown and cheese sticks are melted. 







Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Healthy Vegetable Holiday Appetizers

December is here and if you are like me you are thinking about what to serve during the holiday season. I like to make and freeze a selection of appetizers that can be pulled out and baked fresh. I also like to keep a few fresh items in my refrigerator that can turn into beautiful trays of healthy choices. 
One of my favourite appetizers is Charlotte's Red Pepper Jelly Tarts. You can find this recipe in Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations cookbook. If you don't have our cookbook for this recipe alone I'd say it's worth buying the book. 

Today I'm featuring two fresh vegetable appetizers. 

Cucumber Rounds 
  • cucumbers
  • whipped herb and garlic cream cheese (**whipped cream cheese is a bit softer than spreadable cream cheese and is easier to pipe than soft cream cheese. If you can't find whipped, just add a few teaspoons of milk to spreadable cream cheese, which will make it easier to pipe)
  • red pepper. for garnish
  • parsley
  1. Wash cucumbers. Using a potato peeler peel strips from one end to the other, leaving a strip of peel on and then a strip off. See photo.
  2. Slice cucumber into 1 1/2" slices.
  3. Using a very small spoon, scoop out the seeds from each round, making a little bowl. (don't scoop all the way through)
  4. Fill a piping bag with cream cheese and pipe into the little cucumber cups. 
  5. Top with small pieces of red pepper. Place on serving tray and add parsley for garnish. 
These can be made earlier in the day, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated. 

Caprice Skewers with Reduced Balsamic
  • package of 6" bamboo or other wooden skewers
  • cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • long English cucumber, cut into small chunks, seeds removed
  • fresh basil leaves
  • mini bocconcini Cheese
  • 1 cup balsamic reduction for drizzling
  1. I like to use bamboo skewers, but you can also use any wooden food safe skewers.
  2. Wash tomatoes, cucumbers and basil leaves. Dry on paper towel.
  3. Cut tomatoes in half (or leave whole if very small). Cut and seed cucumber.
  4. Thread vegetables alternately with each other and the bocconcini placing basil leaves between. Place skewers on platter, cover and place in refrigerator until ready to serve. These can be made early in the day.
  5. To reduce balsamic vinegar: place 1 cup of balsamic in a small sauce pan. Heat until it begins to boil. Turn right down and simmer for about 5-8 minutes, until it begins to thicken. Remove from heat and allow to completely cool to room temperature. Place in refrigerator, and lightly drizzle over skewers just before serving.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Prune Vinarterta


One year when I baked this vinarterta for Christmas I decided to send some to my elderly aunt in another province. She sent me a thank you note and said how delicious it had been. It was sometime later when I thought I should ask her if it had arrived in good condition. She admitted it had all been in crumbs but she had enjoyed every crumb:) I remember how polite my aunt was everytime I make this vinaterta! It still makes me smile although at the time I was embarassed.
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cardamon
  1. Cream together butter and sugar until light and creamy.
  2. Add beaten eggs and mix until well blended.
  3. Meaure 2 cups of the flour, add baking powder and cardamon and mix into creamed mixture.
  4. Stir in remaining flour.
  5. Divide dough into 7 equal parts.
  6. Roll each part into an 8" square. I rolled right on the parchment paper which I then slid on the baking sheet.
  7. Bake at 375º for 15 minutes or until golden in color. Remove from baking sheet to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Spread prune filling between the layers.
  8. Store in a covered container and let sit for 24 hours.
  9. Slice and store in covered containers. It freezes well. *I slice off the edges so that you have nice looking pieces to serve. The edges are the bakers treat:)
Prune Filling:
  • 2 1/2 cups prunes
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon cardamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  1. Chop prunes, add water and cook over medium heat until soft.
  2. Add sugar, cinnamon, cardamon, vanilla, and lemon juice.
  3. Stir until sugar is dissolved and remove from heat.
  4. Allow to cool slighty before spreading.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Bread for the Journey



As I was contemplating what to write for the first Advent I was listening to conversations around me and there seemed to be a general theme. "How did this season creep upon us so quickly? How can I simplify and reduce the stress of unmet expectations? Isn't this a time of preparing in anticipation for Christ's return, how quickly did I lose focus on that?" 
I re-read this devotional that originally was posted a few years ago. It was a good reminder for me now as well to slow down as I prepare for the celebrations of the season and focus on what it the Advent season is really all about - the anticipated coming of Christ. 

" Everybody today seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater developments and greater riches and so on, so that children have very little time for their parents. Parents have very little time for each other, and in the home begins the disruption of peace of the world." ~~ Mother Teresa~~

This picture reminds me of a day my family had, when we were snowed in. There were no errands to run, no need to bundle the kids for school. No one could go to work, and for a day I felt complete calm. My family was together and there were no outside influences grabbing our attention away from home and family.
The Advent Season and Christmas Preparations are upon us. I know that this is often a very difficult time of year for many. A time that can be filled with loneliness and anxiety. I hold you deep in my thoughts and prayers, even if I don't know your story, God knows, even if He seems distant, He cares about your story and loves you with an unfailing love. I just want to share with you my deep desire to slow down this Season and make it meaningful for those I care about and love.
Do you ever feel that the world and its demands, rushing here, there, striving for bigger, better, more beautiful, more stuff, has left you feeling lonely and empty? Grown children have little time for their aging parents. Parents are so busy trying to make a life for their family to give them opportunities or "stuff" that they think they need, they actually don't have time for them.
I would invite you to find a day, perhaps even today, to just slooow down. Stop. Reflect. Give yourself a "snow day". If you have a family living at home, then play a game or build an indoor or outdoor fort. If you have someone you haven't talked to for a long time, give them a call and let them know that you are thinking of them and that you care. If you need a day for your self to retreat, reflect and rest, then do so. Even Jesus had times in his life that he needed to do just that. Reflect on God's love, grace and mercy in your life, so that this Advent/Christmas season, we are ready to receive God's greatest gift to us, His Son Jesus Christ.

"O come, O come, Emmanuel"