Saturday, 30 April 2016

Zebra Birthday Cakes

I was going to be predictable and do my 'Z' for zucchini, and was in a spring like, playful mood. It's the end of the challenge, let's celebrate, and pretend to have cake, and make it a party.

Nice thing about this calories.

I made cakes like these, not quite as challenging maybe, but that was years ago, when the grandkids were small. I made them cakes in all sorts of shapes and themes.

Again, it's been fun doing the A-Z Blog Challenge, almost wish it happened more than once a year.

Anyway, thanks to all who visited this site, I hope you come back..

Bye for now.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Free Book Offer

Free copies of my book Hidden Gems are available through Amazon for Kindle. Offer runs today, Saturday and Sunday.

If you don't have a Kindle reader Amazon has an app so you can download books to your PC.

Love this most excellent cover done by my brother, John Kerns


When my son and his wife get together with her family for the holidays, it’s a mixed bag sort of thing with exes and in-laws, and friends considered to be family. I’m fortunate to be invited to the party.

The meal is planned, sort of pot luck style, with people assigned or volunteering to bring something. They make it easy for me, assign me ham which I slice and do in the slow cooker with a brown sugar mustard sauce.

One of the women usually brought sweet potatoes, covered with a brown sugar, marshmallow, and pecan topping. I’d never had this dish before, never tasted sweet potatoes, and found it delicious.

Christmas and Thanksgiving were the only times we had this kind of gathering, and I looked forward to the usual feast of turkey, stuffing, and of course, the yams.

Last year there were no yams on the buffet table. I wasn’t the only one who noticed, or to be disappointed.

The cook seemed surprised that so many people looked forward to her signature dish. It made me think that with all the activity and noise, she’d missed the many compliments and never realized how much her contribution to the meal was appreciated.

She knows now.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

X ceptional

My brother was trying to guess what food I would come up with for the letters of the alphabet during this A-Z Blog Challenge. He thought 'P' might be pressure cooker stew, or at least stew would have a mention under 'S'. Sorry, I kind of forgot about the family recipe for exceptional stew.

My mother made a great stew in her pressure cooker. I liked it because it had a broth instead of a gravy. It was a basic meat, potatoes, onions and carrots stew, though I do remember parsnips in there once.

To be perfectly honest, the pressure cooker scared me. I always had visions of it blowing up, especially when Mom would tap the gadget on the top and steam would come hissing out.

My sister-in-law has no fear, she has a pressure cooker. She has carried on the family tradition for making this stew. It shows what love can do, it conquers all fears. And this stew was a favorite of my brother's, so she makes it often.

The other family favorite was chili served on mashed potatoes. These are two meals my Mom served, and my brother and I now call them comfort foods. Mom may not have been the cookies-warm-from-the-oven type, but she did give us some fond food memories, and the actual meals keep us warm on a cold winter's night.

Not having a pressure cooker, I found my own stew recipe that my kids make, carrying on a cooking tradition. For my stew I use stewing beef, potatoes, onions and carrots (just like Mom) but I cooked mine in the oven, and now the slow cooker.

To make the gravy, add a can of cream of mushroom soup, and an envelope of onion soup mix to the raw meat and vegetables, and stir it up well. I'll admit the mixture looks gross, but when cooked tastes great. If you're making a big stew you may have to use two cans of soup. Maybe, as it cooks, you might need to add some water to keep that gravy consistency.

I made this the other day, and the smell was terrific, as my son attested to when he came to visit.

As the month is coming to a close, and I've written so much about food, I realize how much more I've cooked these last few weeks and how much I've enjoyed the food memories that are always associated with friends and family.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Wilted Spinach Salad

Not the recipe below, but close.

I was reading Nora Roberts’ book, Angels Fall, in which the female character is a cordon bleu chef, working as a fry cook in a Wyoming, backwoods diner.

She prepares a salad for a private dinner for two that was…cooked. Her male companion was shocked, a hot salad?

Funny, I remember my grandmother making a wilted spinach salad. First she fried the bacon, and then she cooked the greens in the bacon grease. I seem to remember the dressing was a sweet vinegar, added to the bacon grease.

Just a little trip down memory lane, and what do you know, my new cookbook has the recipe.

Wilted Spinach Salad
10-12 oz. fresh spinach, washed and torn into bite size pieces
½ cup red onion, minced
5-6 radishes, sliced
2 hard boiled eggs, 1 sliced and 1 chopped
2-4 slices bacon
1 to 1 ½ Tbsp bacon drippings
1 ½ Tbsp sugar
3 Tbsp vinegar
1 Tbsp water
½ tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper
Place prepared spinach in bowl. Add onions and radishes. Refrigerate, tightly covered.
Fry bacon until crisp. Remove to paper towel and set aside.
In a small jar or measuring cup, combine bacon drippings with sugar, vinegar, water, salt and pepper. Refrigerate all ingredients until just before serving.
When ready to serve, microwave the dressing on high for 30 to 45 seconds, or until mixture starts to boil. Toss the chopped egg with the greens then pour hot dressing over the green mixture, toss again lightly.

Top with sliced egg and crumbled bacon.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Victory...or Vegetables

I'm late with this post because I got involved watching game 7 of the NHL playoffs last night. Yeah Blues. So. I guess Victory s not a topic with my theme of food, so I'll switch to vegetables.

It was a cold and rainy morning and I think soup is an appropriate topic, and to be correct, it has to be vegetable soup.

I'm not much of a soup person, other than my Mom's homemade potato soup. It's a favorite of mine, and one I make often. Her soup, and mine, were never real thick and creamy, not like some of the soups you might order in a restaurant.

When I buy broccoli or asparagus, I make a soup, just to use up the stalk and ends that might otherwise end up in the compost. I don't use a recipe, but wing it, using whatever I might have on hand.

To start, I chop 1/2 onion into small pieces, add them to the saucepan with some butter and some minced garlic. I use the garlic from a jar, that's minced and in oil (found in the produce section). While that is cooking, on a low heat, I chop up the green vegetable, the broccoli or the  asparagus, along with a potato, and maybe some carrot, if I have it on hand.

When all the veggies are cut, and the onions cooked to a transparent stage, add the veggies to the saucepan, with enough water to generously cover. Simmer until veggies are tender.

I add a cube or package of chicken bouillon, for the added flavor.

When the veggies are cooked, spoon some of the veggies and the broth into a blender. Leave some of the vegetables for some added texture. Blend until smooth, adding milk, or half and half, to the blender and mix well. Return to the saucepan, mix with remaining vegetables and keep warm until served.

I haven't given any amounts because this is a play-it-by-ear kind of cooking. It all depends on how much vegetable you start with. You can add more of the bouillon and more milk or cream to make a larger quantity. Blending it in the blender makes for a thicker soup, so be careful how much of the liquid you add.

I hope you can make some sense of this. It makes for a tasty soup on a cold and damp night.

It's no ham and pea soup, that's what my sister-in-law makes, and kindly sends me a few jars when I meet my brother for lunch. I've asked for the recipe NUMEROUS times, and she still hasn't shared it with me.

Funny, (old joke) but my mother taught me sharing, just saying.

Monday, 25 April 2016


Slipping away from the food theme today. I was stuck for the 'U' anyway, but life interfered and gave me the perfect subject. Unprepared.

If you see I have another blog, you'd know the subject of that blog is my struggle with Multiple Sclerosis and the pain of arthritis. I've had too busy a week, with the MS Walk yesterday (I don't walk, but the family does), so can't think about food and the letter 'U' today.

After a day of rest today, I'll be back on track tomorrow. Already trying to think of "V" foods, other than the obvious vegetable.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Tea Biscuits

My husband’s mother (deceased before we ever met) was a stay-at-home Mom who ran her home in such an organized way that the family lovingly called her Sergeant Major. That was the kind of household the Hubby grew up in, roast on Sundays and hamburgers every Saturday, you get the idea.

He liked to know what we were having for dinner, before he left for work in the morning, or would ask when he called home during the day. As I wasn’t that kind of organized, I’d throw out something and hope for the best.

Too many times I would get caught up in my art work or some craft project and forget about dinner until the kids came home from school. Oops. Then I would have to quit what I was doing and grab some meat out of the freezer and ad lib.

In a kind of apology for not serving what I’d said I would serve, I would jazz the meal up with homemade tea biscuits. It’s hard to resist that kind of baking, light and fluffy biscuits, hot from the oven so the butter just melts on them. My husband would eat them with butter, along with his meal, and with jam as a kind of dessert, with his after dinner tea. A win-win for sure.

Every once in a while I try my hand at tea biscuits, but the result is never as good as I remember. I don’t bake as often, and wonder if my baking powder has lost its oomph, as I read once it has a definite shelf life.

I’m sharing this recipe for TRADITIONAL TEA BISCUITS, from the Laura Secord Canadian Cookbook

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Sift or blend together. 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
                                    4 tsp baking powder
                                    1 tsp salt

With a pastry blender or two knives, cut in until crumbly. ½ cup shortening

Stir in 1 cup milk

Mix lightly with a fork to make a soft, slightly sticky dough.Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead 8 to 10 times.

Roll out or pat ½ inch thick, cut with a floured 1 ¾ inch cutter.

Bake on ungreased baking sheet in 450 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, or until light golden brown.

Serve hot or cold, with butter and jam. Makes 18 to 20 biscuits.

Soup and tea biscuits sound good for dinner.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Steak Marinade

One thing I’ve really missed these last few years is a barbecue. I do love a hamburger or hot dog hot off the grill, but there is nothing like a steak.

I wasn’t the only one who missed outdoor cooking. At the last place I lived we had hot dogs and hamburgers after the annual meeting, but it was only when a group of us decided to get together to have a steak night that I got to satisfy that taste.

There are different cuts of steak, and I love a flank steak, especially after it’s been marinated. The following recipe I say is my brother’s, though it would be his wife who did all the prep work; he had the manly chore of watching over the barbecue.

Now that I’ve thought about this, I’ll have to declare a steak night with the family, and make this recipe I saved from my sister-in-law.

Steak Marinade
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup olive oil
3 TBs cider vinegar
3 TBs brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, crushed
Salt and pepper to taste.

Combine all ingredients. Mix well. Puncture steak surface with fork in a shallow pan. Pour marinade over steak and let stand for at least one hour.

If you like a steak sandwich, grill the steaks until desired doneness, let stand 5 minutes and then cut diagonally across grain into strips.

Worcestershire Mayo Sauce

2 TBs mayonnaise
1 tsp whole grain mustard
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 clove of garlic, minced

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Sauce can be spread on bread or a roll, layered with strips of steak and cooked in a 375 degree oven until heated through.

I once said something about about missing the taste of barbecue and a man in the group gave me a smug smile and said he cooks on his all winter, by pulling the barbecue onto the deck outside his back door. I bet there were a number of nights at 14 below C he decided oven grilled would do just fine. This last winter, I bet he grilled plenty.

Thursday, 21 April 2016


I was playing on Pinterest last week and found something interesting. It was a way to cook rutabagas, or turnip as I know it better, without having to cut off the heavy waxy coating and peel.

This is a very dense vegetable, and I have always found it difficult to cut and peel. It’s one of the reasons I haven’t cooked it for years.

I never sampled this strong tasting vegetable until the first holiday dinner I had with my in-laws. Mashed turnip was a tradition, and I found I loved it, when served with potatoes, dressing and turkey. My father-in-law told me a trick to tone down the strong taste was to cook a couple of potatoes with the turnip.

I bought a turnip at the grocery, eager to try this new way of microwaving the turnip, so that the peel and waxy coating came away to leave you with cooked turnip ready to mash.

Turns out, I must not have read the post well enough to note the directions, and I forgot to post it to my board of recipes. I looked for it today, couldn’t find it. So I prepared my turnip the old fashioned way, by hand, and with great effort.

I mash the turnip; add salt and pepper, butter and brown sugar, just as my father-in-law did. A couple of Christmases ago, my daughter made turnip with her holiday meal She must have remembered having it at her grandparents’, and wanted to taste it again..

I’m satisfying my yen for it today and won’t have to make this effort again for a while. Maybe I should check out the grocery store’s frozen section, satisfying my desire for turnip might be than I’d considered.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016


There are natural born cooks, and then there are the rest of us.

I remember visiting friends one time, and as the dinner hour approached, we were invited to stay. With little effort, the woman made some pie crust, lined a couple of pie pans and proceeded to make a quiche for our dinner.

She baked the empty pie shells for a few minutes, and then lined the bottom with small pieces of crisp bacon, and a combination of three different cheeses, Monterey Jack, Cheddar and Parmesan. The eggs were beaten with cream and poured over the mixture of cheeses, and baked in the oven.

With a salad and a vegetable, it was a great meal. I was amazed at how easily she put the whole meal together, with no preparation or planning ahead of time.

If we’d been at my house, any meat would have been in the freezer, I may or may not have had eggs, probably only cheddar and parmesan cheeses, and I would not have had cream.

What I would have had was the number for home delivery. So, what does everybody want on their pizza?

Tuesday, 19 April 2016


In the book I was reading, the female character made her partner a stack of pancakes for their 'morning after'breakfast, served with warmed maple syrup.

Made my mouth water. I rarely make pancakes at home, not worth it when cooking for one, and when I indulge in breakfast out, usually go for the eggs, sausage and home fries. I miss breakfast out at McDonald's with the grandkids for hot cakes.

Strangely enough, had pancakes in their weekly E-mail, timely as I needed some inspiration  for my letter 'P'.  Inspired so much, I had French Toast for breakfast, easier to make.

Here's the link for a variety of pancake recipes.

If you don't care to go to the link, there is one recipe I'd like to share...for Cinnamon Syrup.
For pancakes and waffles, also good on apple slices and strawberries.


1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 TB all purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup water

Stir together white and brown sugars with flour and cinnamon in a small saucepan. Stir in vanilla and water. Bring to a rolling boil, stirring often. Continue to boil and stir until mixture thickens to syrup consistency. Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, 18 April 2016


I was out for breakfast with my daughter one day, and she had an omelet that looked so delicious. She asked why her omelets never turned out like in the restaurant.

This recipe came in an E-mail from and I decided to try it. If you were making breakfast for company, it works great because it's baked and you have some time once it's in the oven to finish other menu items, or just to visit.

This recipe is a keeper. I shared it with my neighbor, and she gave it a thumbs up approval.

Baked Denver Omelet 

Baked Denver Omelet

  • Prep
  • Cook
  • Ready In

"My family loves omelets, and this is a quick and easy one. These directions are for a Denver omelet, but experiment with other ingredients to make your favorite."


  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped cooked ham
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
  • salt and ground black pepper to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease a 10-inch round baking dish.
  2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; cook and stir onion and bell pepper until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in ham and continue cooking until heated through, 5 minutes more.
  3. Beat eggs and milk in a large bowl. Stir in Cheddar cheese and ham mixture; season with salt and black pepper. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.
  4. Bake in preheated oven until eggs are browned and puffy, about 25 minutes. Serve warm.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

New Cookbook

Even though I’m not cooking with the same enthusiasm as before, I do love looking at recipes.

I received a new cookbook from a friend, “Take a Tour Through Huron County Kitchens”. It was produced to support the 2017 International Plowing Match, to be held in Walton, Ontario on September 19-23.

I love these cookbooks filled with recipes from the community. I still have the ones produced by the kids’ public school and sold as a fundraiser. I love reading it, seeing the names of old neighbours, old friends. The names in this new book are not familiar, but so many of the recipes are ones I’ve tried before, and I’ve marked a number to try, so maybe my desire to cook just needed a jump start with a new set of recipes.

Not too long ago I met a woman at a church bazaar. I hadn’t seen her in years, and she laughed when I told her I had been thinking of her that week, when I’d made her cinnamon cake from the school cookbook.

Good food, good friends and good times, never go out of style.

Friday, 15 April 2016


In my more inventive cooking days, I tried to impress my parents with an Italian dish, of meat and cheese manicotti. Manicotti are pasta tubes, that you cook, stuff, and then bake with a tomato sauce.

First off, let me say that stuffing cooked pasta tubes is not easy, especially with a meat filling. I've seen pictures since of the tubes being filled using a cake decorating device filled with a cheese mixture. Needless to say, I spent an afternoon filling those pasta tubes by hand, and many ripped in the process.

By the time I had them all filled and neatly lined up in an oblong baking dish, I was relieved. I had poured a layer of sauce in the pan, laid the manicotti out and covered the whole thing with more sauce and grated mozzarella cheese.

It was baking in the oven, and smelled wonderful, when my parents arrived. As my Mom was not driven by food, would often forget to eat if left on her own, the impressing part of my meal was directed to my Dad, as he loved to eat.

I was feeling pretty good about the meal, until...Mom looked at me and asked if I had ever tried manicotti, the stuffed pasta?

I just glared at her. "What do you think you're eating?" I asked, annoyed that all my effort had gone for naught, for my mother at any rate. Though I had to see her point. With the sauce and cheese on top, it did look more like a lasagna, without the curly edge pasta, than it did manicotti.

Needless to say, I never tried this dish again.

My Dad loved it, but then he loved most anything, and he loved me.

Thursday, 14 April 2016


The Looneyspoons Collection is the name of a cookbook given to me by my sister-in-law.

The authors are TV personalities, Janet and Greta Podleski. Some of their other cookbooks are ‘Crazy Plates’ and ‘Eat, Shrink and be Merry’.

This is not your normal cookbook. It is bright and colorful, loaded with photos and cartoons. One aspect I like are the Recipe Tips, the Nutrition Nuggets and the Trivial Tidbits. There is so much information on each page, over and above the recipe.

But, as cute as that is, there’s a limit to cuteness, at least for me. The recipe names are supposed to be fun, but I found it boring after a while, and if you were looking up a recipe, what would you look for? At least the index at the beginning of every section gives the basic name and the one in the back lists recipe names along with main ingredients.

Here are some sample pasta recipe names…The Yellow Bows of Texas, Worth Every Penne, Touched by an Angel Hair Pasta. See what I mean?

I ignore the titles and look at the photos.

Here’s one recipe that caught my eye….Marla’s Maple Pork
1 ½ lbs pork tenderloin
½ cup pure maple syrup
2 TB each reduced sodium soy sauce and ketchup
1 TB Dijon Mustard
2 tsp grated orange zest
1 ½ tsp each curry powder and ground coriander
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

Trim pork of all visible fat. Place pork in a large heavy duty, resealable plastic bag. Whisk together all remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Pour marinade over pork and seal bag. Turn bag several times to coat pork evenly. Marinate in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Transfer pork and marinade to a small roasting pan or baking dish. Roast, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 40 minutes. Pork should be slightly pink in the middle.

Let pork stand for 5 minutes before slicing. Slice thinly. Drizzle extra sauce over pork and serve immediately.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Kraut'N Pork Chops

Sauerkraut is one of those Love It or Hate It foods. It is made by the process of pickling called lactic acid fermentation. Sounds lovely. Finely shredded cabbage is layered with salt and left to ferment.

In Russia, chopped cabbage is usually pickled together with shredded carrots. It is used as a filling in Polish pierogi. In Germany, sauerkraut is often flavored with juniper berries, and served warm with pork or sausage.

 I remember my grandmother added sauerkraut to a pork roast, and near the end, also added egg noodles. I loved the roast and sauerkraut, but never could understand the why of the noodles.

My Mom made a Kraut’N Pork Chops meal that I made for decades. It was one recipe that toned down the strong flavor of the sauerkraut, making it more tasty for those who were not too fond of fermented cabbage.

The recipe:

Season 6 pork chops. Brown lightly on both sides in hot shortening.

Stir 1 28oz can of sauerkraut into 1 cup of tomato juice. (Note, as my son really didn’t like sauerkraut, I drained the liquid off and replaced all the fluid with tomato juice, diluting some of the taste. And I never use wine sauerkraut as it seems to be stronger tasting)
Arrange a mound of kraut on each pork chop. Sprinkle with 1 TB brown sugar
Cover and cook slowly on top of stove for 40-45 minutes or until chops are tender. Baste with tomato juice several times during cooking.

Lift chops and kraut carefully onto platter. Serves 6.

On some of those lazier cooking days, Mom cooked sauerkraut with hot dogs, and served it with her famous mashed potatoes. (See I for Instant Mashed Potatoes April 11). I still love it.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Jumbo Stuffed Shells

One time when we were visiting my parents in Florida, Mom served an Italian dish that quickly became a favorite.

It comprised of large pasta shells, stuffed with a mixture of cheeses, baked with a marinara or spaghetti sauce.

Served with a salad, some garlic bread, it was a great meal. No meat for the meat and potato lover, but still tasty and filling. I suppose it could also be served as an appetizer, a forerunner to a heavier meat and vegetable meal.

Here’s the recipe my Mom gave me.

2 eggs, beaten
2 containers Ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
½ cup chopped parsley
1 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp pepper
12 oz. jumbo shells, cooked, drained
3 cups prepared spaghetti sauce

In medium bowl stir together eggs, Ricotta cheese, Mozzarella cheese, ¾ cup Parmesan cheese, parsley, salt and pepper.

Spoon about 2 TB. Into each shell. Arrange in a single layer in a 9x13 inch baking dish.

Spoon spaghetti sauce over shells. Sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until heated through.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Instant Mashed Potatoes

I think my Mom had a real aversion to peeling potatoes. I can think of no other reason why she more often served instant mashed potatoes.

She would serve the real thing at Christmas and Thanksgiving, and whenever she made her beef stew in the pressure cooker.

Anyone who married into the family quickly learned that Mom served instant, and we all delighted in teasing her about her "fake" potatoes.

As I write, inspired by these old memories, I see we gave Mom a hard time about her cooking, and yet I still make some of the dishes I learned from her. She was never a 'meat and potatoes' kind of cook.

The quality of pre-packaaged foods have improved, even the mashed potatoes, though I seem to stick with the boxed scalloped potatoes more than anything else.

Even then, you can't beat the real thing.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Homemade Cookies

As I've said before, my Mom wasn't much of a baker. I suppose, if she's had more of a sweet tooth, things might have been different.

She didn't mind sitting down in the late afternoon to coffee and a couple if chocolate chip cookies, she just didn't want to bake to do it.

Dad called the store bought cookies she brought home "cardboard cookies". If he complained enough, she'd buy that ready made cookie dough in a tube (the kind you slice) and 'bake' him a batch.

"There," she'd say, with a smirk on her face, "have a cookie."

Is it any wonder I took on the role of baker in the family.

I'm sure my Dad thought he was being subtle...yeah right. He once informed his wife he was putting in an insurance claim for his brown corduroy pants, since they'd been missing for weeks.

She would lovingly tell him to shut up, and the next day would get caught up on the laundry. I learned from her well, cooking and housework get put to side if an art project has my attention. At least I live alone and only have myself to worry about.

Friday, 8 April 2016

H is not for Haggis

My brother sent me this picture, asked if my 'H' was going to be for Haggis. Sorry to disappoint you, 'H' is for.......oh, wait, not time yet.

Graham Cracker Crumbs

I was talking to my family about the A-Z Blog Challenge, explaining that my theme was food. I was trying to think of something for ‘G’ and my grandson suggested graham crackers.

I like graham crackers, just plain out of the package, but then there are all the desserts you can make with a graham cracker crumb base. So, for my grandson, I’m making my ‘G’ graham cracker crumbs.

What immediately comes to your mind? Could it be Nanaimo Bars?

For a while, my family favorite dessert was my cheesecake recipe. I made a plain, baked cheesecake with a crumb base, and constantly changed the sauces to drip, drizzle or pour over it. Sometimes it was a fruit sauce, like when strawberries were in season, or maybe a caramel, nut sauce. Whatever floats your boat.

Here’s my baked cheesecake recipe.

Crust   Combine 11/4 cups graham cracker crumbs with ¼ cup sugar and ¼ cup melted butter. Press firmly on bottom of greased 9 inch spring form pan.
 Filling   Beat 2 pkgs (8oz) cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in 1 can Condensed Milk, 3 eggs and ¼ tsp salt. Stir in ¼ cup lemon juice. Pour over crust in prepared pan.
 Bake in a 300 degree oven for 50-55 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched.

As much as I love this recipe it does need something to give it some zing, like fresh fruit, caramel sauce, chocolate sauce.

There is another cheesecake recipe that my mother made in the summer. It doesn’t require any baking and is a nice, light dessert for summer. I’m including it, after all, summer is coming.

Cherry Cheesecake

1st Layer  2 cups graham cracker crumbs
                 ½ cup melted butter
                ½ cup brown sugar
Combine and press in an oblong pan.
2nd Layer  8 oz package cream cheese
                  1 cup icing sugar
                  1 envelope Dream Whip
Cream together the cream cheese and sugar. Prepare Dream Whip according to package directions. Fold into cream cheese and sugar mixture. Spread over graham cracker layer.
3rd Layer..1 can cherry pie filling. Spoon pie filling onto cream cheese layer.
Chill for about 4 hours.


Thursday, 7 April 2016

French Fries

Is there anything that says spring more than the opening of the roadside French fry trucks? I consider this an annual event, worthy of celebration.

In this regard, I consider French fries like chocolate. If it’s a seldom indulged treat, don’t go for anything but the best.

Fast food French fries are not very appealing, machine cut, frozen, and though deep fried, they are often kept warm under a heat lamp until served.

The best French fries (and who can think in terms of just one) are hand cut, deep fried and served immediately in a brown paper bag.

When my kids were small, they liked catsup on their fries, but they never got enough with the squirt down the side of the bag. I kept plastic plates and forks in the car for just this occasion. Plus, it was neater than trying to use that little wooden fork thing at the bottom of the bag.

For years, our favorite spot was out on the county road. They were only open on the weekend, and were strategically placed to serve the cottage crowd coming and going.

My son found a place near his home, another country spot near the lake, and they serve fries covered in sour cream, green onions, cheese and bacon. A veritable feast.

Now that it’s April, I have a yen for French fries, and will keep my eye out for a new favorite spot. Sounds like I should gather some of the grandkids and make it scientific, make the rounds to do a taste testing.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Egg Rolls

I watched the Rachel Ray Show one day, when she made egg rolls, and was surprised how easy it seemed, and had to try some for myself.

Egg roll wrappers are available in the refrigerated produce section of your grocery store.

Rachel used a prepackaged bag of coleslaw mix for the filler, with some fresh bean sprouts added. You can add small amounts of cooked chicken or pork, or mushrooms if you like.  

I don't use a recipe, just start off with some chopped onion, maybe mushrooms and some chicken, add the coleslaw mix which is cabbage with some carrots, and the bean sprouts. It's easier to fill the wrappers if you cut all the salad stuff before you add it to the pan.

I cook it all together, add some soy sauce and that's it. 

You add some of the filler to the center of the wrapper and do an envelope fold. one corner. then from the sides and then the last corner. Wetting the wrapper gives you a seal, which is important when you add it to the hot oil for deep frying. The alternative is to fold long sides over, and do a small fold to seal on each end.

I made these one day with my granddaughters. They did the filling , folding and sealing, and I did the deep frying. (Safety first) I don't have a deep fryer, but use my Dutch Oven, the largest pan in my pots and pan set. The deeper sides lessen the greasy splatter.

The best part of making these is using the last few pieces of wrapper to make a sweet treat. I cut the wrapper into one inch strips and fry them. Once drained and cooled, gently toss them in a bag of powdered sugar, Oh, they are so good, and a nice reward after all your hard work.

These homemade egg rolls have spoiled me for the store bought or restaurant variety. I find some are just cabbage, with no taste whatsoever, or just bean sprouts. I like mine with the mix of both, and that little extra.

And any food made with love, to enjoy and share with family is always the best.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Velma at the Spa

For those of you who are regular readers, you  know Velma is the name I gave my car. I hoped after a particularly bad winter of her discontent, it might help us to get on better.

She went to Uncle Brad's spa last Wednesday. As I had driven the longer distance Tuesday to meet my brother for lunch, I assume she was protesting the miles, by flashing me some yellow dash lights on the trip home.

I didn't know what the lights meant, and figured I'd check when I got home. I worried if I shut her down so I could read the manual, she might not have started again. Better to be stranded at home than in another town.

Anyway, some minor repairs, and an oil change later, we're back together. Brad is an in-law relative, and I find, with an older car, that it is so much better to have a mechanic you know and trust, and I get the family rate. He laughs when I tell him I call a trip to his garage a spa visit for Velma.

My inactivity has not been good for the old girl. Sitting for long periods, with only short trips out, has given her a rust problem. It doesn't help that we're so close to the lake for the added moisture.

Brad's advice, drive the hell out of her. I can see her days are numbered. But it's good advice, for us both. Maybe this will be my summer to get out and about, make some of those day trips I've wanted to do, make use of my new camera.

Now, if only spring would come for real. Snow? Really?


When I was little, more than half a century ago, my Dad would drive the three of us downtown to The Royal York Hotel, so he could get a copy of the Sunday New York Times. The drive from the suburbs to downtown was not the stress provoking trip it is today. 

I remember that we drove home along the Lakeshore, and stopped at a little place for doughnuts. That old coffee/doughnut shop was torn down for the expansion of the Gardener Expressway. 

Dad did love his doughnuts. One Mother's Day he gave my Mom a deep she could make him doughnuts. She scoffed, and rightly so. He then decided he would make them himself.

We made a few batches, before the fryer ended up on a basement shelf, forgotten. 

Maybe not forgotten exactly, Mom may not have let Dad forget what a terrible gift that was. I don't ever remember small appliances being on the gift list ever again. Actually, the older the kids got, the better he seemed to get in the gift giving. Leather jackets and mink coats were a big improvement.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Captain's Casserole

My mother was not the Donna Reed kind of mother. Though she was a stay-at-home mom, her priorities were not housework and cooking, but art.

As I have always been a creative person from a young age, not having warm from the oven cookies when I came home from school was balanced by having my own live-in art teacher.

When Mom applied her creativity to cooking, we had some interesting meals. Stir fried liver comes to mind, as disgusting as it sounds.

I recall sitting down to dinner, to another new recipe she'd found in a magazine, called Captain's Casserole.

It was noodles with tuna, black olives? and a crushed potato chip topping. Any other details are lost in the memory of how awful it was. Mom liked it, but it was a no for the rest of the family. As Dad put it, "This one's not a keeper."

For some reason, Captain's Casserole became a family joke, never to be forgotten. Even after more than fifty years, when I mentioned the name to my brother, he knew exactly what I was referring to.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Butter Tarts Battle

I hadn't been aware that butter tarts were a Canadian thing. When my sister moved to Florida, she always wanted butter tarts when she visited, said you couldn't find them in the U.S. Though, now that I think about it, I don't have much sympathy, after all, they do have pecan pie, a tasty alternative.

My Grandmother-in-law made great butter tarts, and to keep the family happy, had to make them for every family gathering. Myself, I find the work involved in making and cutting the pie crust to be labor intensive.

The filling matters the most, but a bad crust does make a big difference. I use store bought tart shells, and find Tenderflake the best. Usually the store brands are cheaper, but not as good. My kids don't seem to care, they eat them no matter what.

Our area offers a Butter Tart Tour, a listing of all the bakeries offering butter tarts, and one spot not too far from me even won a contest for their tarts. I hate to admit how many places on the list I have tried.

Apparently there is a Butter Tart Trail in another part of Ontario, and the similarity in names...tour vs trail caused quite an upset. It was almost the cause of some litigation, and was worthy of mention in the Canadian Living Magazine.

We Canadians take out butter tarts very seriously.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Apple Dumplings

I admit it, I suffer from Middle Child Syndrome. I learned from an early age to be a people pleaser, and there was no one I wanted to please more than my Dad.

I found baking to be one way to do it, appealing to his sweet tooth. Dad loved those old fashioned desserts like bread pudding, rice pudding and apple dumplings.

Though a pie would be easier, I made the apple dumplings. A whole apple, peeled and cored, stuffed with a butter, brown sugar and cinnamon mixture, and wrapped in pastry.

I have fond memories of Dad, sitting at the table with a warm apple dumpling in front of him. He liked his in a bowl, and would add milk to it, his choice.

After I left home, I never made another apple dumpling, maybe it was too special, made for that one special person in my life.