Posts Tagged ‘food gifts’

There is time, O yes, there is time enough to amuse oneself with aliterations and acronyms. In this case P6 will serve as the yet shorter form for PPPPPP.

More simply, I’m creating a cache of well loved family recipes for my kids (and their cousins if they care to dabble.) Bonus, they are available to me wherever I find myself in years to come.

What will this include: Agne’s Swedish Meatballs, Jean’s Nuts and Bolts, Ginger Sparklers (aka Molasses cookies) and more.

When someone wants a family recipe, I’ll write it down here. Or where possible, snap a picture from my mom’s recipe book and add my preferred changes and comments.


The family recipe, apparently originating with my Aunt Jean. But tweaks are necessary!

These Nuts and Bolts are the first thing I make in preparation for Christmas each year. Since they store well in a cool place, I start looking for cereal on sale in late November and often have these made before December 1st.

As noted, this recipe makes 2 roasting pans full or about 4 full 1 gallon ziplock freezer bags.

The first of two roaster pans.

The main tweak for this recipe is to DOUBLE the Worcestershire sauce to a full one quarter (1/4) cup. I believe this is the magic ingredient that turns your heap of cereal from a salty oily mess (prior to baking) into something more than the sum of its parts. But this is entirely up to you.

I also find that half a box of cheerios is plenty. My personal preference is for more shreddies. And I put in about 1 cup mixed nuts and two cups jumbo salted roasted peanuts. I use one bag of pretzel sticks and one of traditional small pretzels.

Store in a cool place, such as your garage, or you will open the bags each time you see them and snack all day.

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Recently, while out walking near Granville Island, we stopped at a coffee bar and Rand bought a giant apricot oat cookie thingy. It was amazingly good! Chewy, flavourful and filling but wholesome tasting, by which, I suppose, I mean not too sweet.

I looked online and found a very similar sounding recipe, which was gluten free and vegan.

While we are increasingly experimenting with meat free menus, I don’t see my love affair with dairy ending anytime soon.

And I definitely can’t be bothered to stock all the specialty ingredients required by this recipe (almond milk, coconut sugar, coconut oil, etc.) or to soak dates and blenderize all this lovely dried fruit.

So today I came up with a simplified version, and they are so good. Excellent right out of the oven for breakfast, and they would be a wonderful addition to a road trip. Had to write my modified version down right away, so I can make them again and again.

Update May 2020

I find this is a pretty flexible recipe: you can add a bit of flax seed, change the fruit or nuts, whatever. The key is to end up with a sticky but not wet dough, in order to pack the cookies into your dry measure mold (or a ramekin) and have them fall out of the mold onto your baking sheet, then hold this consistency through the baking process.


1 1/4 cup rolled whole oats

1 cup flour, can include some buckwheat or whole meal…

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

Half cup or more sliced almonds, rough chopped, toast them for best flavour

1/4 cup finely minced dried apricots plus….

3/4 cup chopped dried apricots

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup flaked coconut

1/4 cup melted margerine

1/4 cup buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla

Combine oats, flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Stir in brown sugar and coconut.. then almonds, apricots.

Add vanilla to milk, stir into dry ingredients, along with melted butter. Stir to combine. This will not “come together” like a cookie dough, but it does take a few minutes of stirring to ensure all the ingredients get damp and sticky, so keep stirring.

If necessary, add another tablespoon or two of milk, one at a time, to get everything to a damp and clumping consistency. Now, use a 1/2 cup dry measure to mold into 8 large or ten medium breakfast cookies.

Bake about 15 minutes, at 350F, then check to see if they are slightly browned on the top and bottom edges. May need another five minutes, if not.

Cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes, then gobble ’em up.

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The Food of Love 2012: Vanilla Slice

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile you know that once a year I choose one amazing dessert with which to demonstrate my love and affection for family and friends. These aren’t fancy recipes, but boy do they schmeck!  If you tried  Chocolate Fudgies (2008),  Coconut Glazed Oatmeal Cake (2009) and Swedish Waffles  (2011)  then you will know that the Food of Love is always worth making.

This year I’ve chosen a recipe that I got from my dad’s mother, Grace.  It is a family favourite and a great dessert to take to a potluck since it can easily provide 18 servings or more.   Don’t be dissuaded by the simple and seemingly bland ingredients: This is one of those recipes that produces something much more than the sum of its parts.  It tastes very much like a mille-feuille pastry, which you might also know as a ‘Napolean.’  Tempted?

Be sure to use a cooked pudding mix and note that the amount of milk added is less than the regular pudding instructions –  so the filling is custardy.  This dessert is best if made at least 8 hours ahead of serving and stored in the fridge.

VANILLA SLICE  – Makes one 9 x 13 inch dessert – approx 18 servings


Graham Cracker Squares  – 2  sleeves (approx 40)

Jello Cooked Vanilla Pudding/Pie Filling  – 1 large package  (170 grams)

Milk – 2 and 1/4 cups

Whipping Cream – 2 cups


Icing sugar – 2 cups

Vanilla – 1 and 1/2 tsp

Hot tap water – 3-4 Tbsp

Unsweetened dark chocolate – 1 ounce


START by mixing up your custard. In a microwave proof bowl combine the pudding mix and milk – noting that this is a reduced amount from what is called for on the box. Cook on high, for one to two minutes at a time, for about 6 minutes total, whisking frequently.  Once thickened, set aside to cool.

Now line an ungrease 9 x 13 inch pan with a fitted layer of whole graham crackers. Imagine you are a tiler, and score, snap and fit them as necessary to neatly cover the bottom of your pan. Once the pudding is room temperature, carefully spread it over the graham crackers until they are evenly covered – unlike in my picture . . .

Spread cooked and cooled vanilla pudding over graham crackers

Next, whip the cream, adding no sugar, vanilla – nothing.  Spread this evenly over the pudding layer with the back of a spatula.

Next, add a second layer of fitted graham crackers squares, pressing down gently where necessary to get the surface as level as possible.

Cover the cooked pudding with plain whipped cream and another layer of graham crackers

Mix the glaze ingredients with a whisk until completely smooth and not too runny.  Pour over top of graham crackers and spread evenly using the back of a spoon and a bit of patience.

Last step is to melt the chocolate and drizzle in lines, which can be ‘combed’ for effect or just spiraled lazily about.

Cover with a tight layer of saran and refrigerate minimum 8 hours or overnight.  Serve and be adored!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Easy Tricky Cherry Almond Shortbread

You know one. You might be one:  A person who just doesn’t get the whole shortbread thing. 

I walk a fine line there myself.

I love my mom’s: she pipes it into charming wreathes with a cookie press I am far too uncoordinated to master (or too lazy to try?) I know a few others who produce a tasty cookie,  But many shortbread recipes leave me cold. Too dry, not sweet enough – sorry, I am picky.

This is my family’s favourite shortbread recipe. Brown-sugar sweet, and with bits of marashino cherry adding moisture and interest. The recipe is dead easy and a little tricky all at the same time.  Intrigued? 

The tricky bit comes in getting the cherries distributed in the dough without turning your dough pink. Then, you have to pack the dough into saran-wrapped cylinders to chill in the fridge, again without de-juicing the cherries. After that, its just slice and bake. 

Chopped frozen cherries get mixed in last.

Having a Kitchen Aid mixer helps a lot. I used to make this by hand and could never get the dough sufficiently well-mixed. My strategy this year was to drain and chop my cherries, then freeze them in a single layer on a sheet of parchment.

They came straight out of the freezer and into the mixer with the toasted nuts. With Saran wrap sheets waiting, those cherries were mixed in, wrapped up and into the fridge in moments, with very little pink leakage. 

 1 cup butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar

2 cups flour

1/2 cup marashino cherries, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup blanched silvered almonds, lightly toasted and cooled.


Cream butter in mixer. Add sugar gradually, then flour gradually.

A drop of almond extract would be optional at this point.

Fling in the toasted nuts and chopped (frozen) marashinos.

Remove half of dough to a sheet of saran, form into a fairly uniform log, pressing quite tightly, then roll up in the food wrap. On a hard surface and using hands, roll log dough back and forth a few times to make it as round as possible and compact the dough a little more. Then pop it in the fridge overnight or for up to a week. Repeat with other half of dough. 

When chilled, unwrap and slice with sharp knife into quarter-inch slices and place on parchment lined tray.

Bake 12- 15 minutes at only 325 degrees and high in oven. Remove from oven when edges have begun to brown. Cool on sheet for a few minutes before removing to wire rack.  Makes 4 dozen.

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Easy on your pocketbook but a bit sticky on your fillings. You've been warned.

Oh dear, it has been awhile.  I’ll try to make up for it, starting with this super easy and inexpensive recipe for sponge toffee. It makes a big panful for gifts or sharing.  If you pine for Crunchie Bars, you will love this. It’s also variously known as sea-foam, hokey pokey and honeycomb.


One cup granulated sugar

One cup corn syrup – dark is best, but yellow and white work too

One tablespoon vinegar

One tablespoon baking soda


Line a 9×13 pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.

Combine sugar, corn syrup and vinegar in a LARGE heavy bottomed pot. This is important as you will end with a lot more volume than you begin with.

Cook over medium high heat until all sugar is dissolved, then bring it to a boil and cook without stirring until a candy thermometer registers 300 degrees or just a little higher.  Don’t have a candy thermometer? I used my digital meat thermometer and it worked fine. You can always cook it ‘old school’ and use the cold water testing method, in which case you are aiming for the “hard crack” stage.

Once there, stir in baking soda thoroughly. The mixture will foam up, at least tripling in size. Quickly scrape it into your prepared pan and allow to cool completely before removing and breaking into bite-sized pieces. 

If desired, melt some chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave or in a double boiler, then dip one end of each piece, and set on wax paper or parchment to cool.  Best if consumed in 48 hours or store in sealed container in cool dry place.

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What to take – or leave – as a gift of thanks when invited out to a friend’s cottage? I’ve been asked this question a few times recently.  It depends, in part, on how long you stay, and how well you know your host. At the risk of appearing grasping to our own dear friends – who know that a bottle of red and a heat-and-serve appie thrill us to the core, here are a few ideas for when the terrain is less certain: 

For a day or overnight visit –

One – or even two – nice bottles of wine.  You don’t have to be extravagant, but this isn’t the time to bargain shop either. A nice rosé or chardonnay in the $15-$20 range should hit the mark.  Just to be clear, this is a gift for the host and should be separate from whatever you bring to contribute for the day’s or evening’s festivities.  They may choose to open it while you are there, but don’t be surprised if they don’t. 

Even if your hosts aren’t known to be big drinkers, a bottle of wine will be appreciated by nearly everyone, and can be easily passed along where it is not.  Consumable items are always the best, since a big part of the joy of a recreational property is keeping it simple (ie, uncluttered.)

A Weekend Visit

The wine, as noted above, plus a small gift.  If you have time to bake something a bit decadent and wrap it up attractively, do so.  If not, think luxury consumable – like a deluxe coffee or box of teas. If you want to give something more enduring, best to keep it small in size. Consider a small token that mirrors one of your host’s enthusiasms.  I once received this lovely mug, with a detail from a print which hangs in my cottage, and I am touched by the thoughtfulness of the giver each time I use it. 

 Lee Valley also makes garden mugs resembling terra cotta flower pots. I received a pair of these and they see lots of use. They say ‘country house’ without being the least over-the-top or kitschy. 

A few days to a week’s stay-

Another great gift for anyone with rural property to maintain is this Lee Valley Folding Kneeler Stool.  While bigger than a mug, it folds neatly for storage and is endlessly useful for both the occasional putterer or the hard-core gardener.

It flips over to offer a dry kneeling pad and the legs become uprights to help get you back on your feet again with ease. I love mine. This retails for around $40.00 and has an optional tool holder for another $21.  In early spring or fall, when all the outdoor furniture is in storage, it doubles as a quick drinks table at the end of a day of yardwork.

The Really Grand Gesture –

Suppose an acquaintance hands you the keys to his waterfront, hot-tub equipped, 8-room chalet, and says “take the whole family and have fun for a week – we’re just sorry we won’t be there to host you”  – then wine and a mug will not suffice.  First, leave the place cleaner than it has ever been.  If possible, engage a local cleaner to come in at your expense and leave it in pristine condition.  Second, a case of wine would be a great gift for a wine-loving cottage owner.  If you are not feeling confident, ask for some assistance at the liquor store in choosing a thoughtful, themed selection rather than a dozen identical bottles – even if you feel pretty sure you know your host’s favourite label.  A gift card for a nice restaurant back in the city is another option.  Or if your benefactor is fond of reading, and not already equipped with the latest technology, a e-reader makes a wonderful gift – choose a 3-G equipped model so books can be downloaded at a moment’s notice even in a remote or rural locale.

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Celebrate Valentine’s Day one day early by treating your favourite people to my Grandma Agnes’ decadent Swedish Waffles next Sunday morning.

Whipped egg whites, melted butter and sour cream – and a minimum of baking powder – take these to a higher level. They freeze well should you have any left-overs, which I sincerely doubt. 

I have not tried this recipe in a Belgian waffle maker, so offer no promises as to your success there. I have two Black and Decker Sweetheart waffle makers, and I get them both going to get a double batch to the table quickly. 

If you are keeping your first waffles warm in the oven while cooking successive ones, cover them with a thin tea towel kept far away from the element, so they don’t dry out.


4 eggs, separated

1/2 cup sugar

1 and 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 and 2/3 cups milk

1/4 cup melted butter or margerine

1/4 cup sour cream


Whip egg whites until moderately stiff and set aside.

Beat egg yolks with sugar until well combined.

Combine flour, baking soda and baking powder and mix into egg/sugar mixture. The dough will be quite stiff at this point. Slowly add milk while continuing to beat at a low speed, scraping down bowl one or twice. Add cooled melted butter  and sour cream, blending all ingredients well. Fold in egg whites fully. This can take a while if you are using a spatula. Lowest speed on a Kitchen Aid mixer does the job well.

Prepare regular waffle iron using a light cooking oil spray prior to making first waffle. If your iron is well seasoned, you should not have to oil it for successive ones. 

Serve with fresh fruit, whipped cream and real Canadian maple syrup.

Swedish Waffles with strawberries, bananas and whip cream

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Last year, just in time for Valentines Day, I posted my much-admired and oft-requested recipe for Chocolate Fudgies. If you are looking for another home-baked love offering for this year, I suggest this cake; the ultimate, recession-proof comfort food. This sweet and very moist treat requires no fancy ingredients and delivers a wonderful old-fashioned taste complete with a broiled-on sticky coconut topping. Its a great reminder that sometimes the best things are also the simplest – like love and gooey toppings.


1 cup quick cooking rolled oats

1  1/3 cups boiling water

1/2 cup butter or margerine

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1  1/3 cups all purpose flour

1 tsp soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a small bowl, combine oats and boiling water and allow to cool 15 minutes while you assemble the other ingredients.

In a larger bowl, cream together the softened butter and sugars, then add the beaten eggs, and beat til fluffy.

Sift (yeah, I never do either!) the dry ingredients and add them  alternately with the soaked oatmeal to the creamed mixture until well blended. Turn into a buttered 8×8 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes.  Check for doneness with a toothpick, then press gently in centre of cake to make sure it is quite firm before removing from oven – otherwise the weight of the topping may collapse the centre of the cake slightly.

While the cake is baking, mix the topping:


6 T melted butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sweet shredded coconut

1/2 coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts

1/4 cup light cream

1/2 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients together. While cake is hot, carefully spread the topping evenly.

Set oven to Broil and position rack 4 inches from the burner. Broil cake while you are bent nearly double WATCHING IT ALL THE TIME!

Topping will melt, bubble and turn golden brown in 3-5 minutes.  Cool and enjoy.  My work here is done and I am off to the cottage!

Coconut-glazed oatmeal cake

Coconut-glazed oatmeal cake

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Chocolate Fudgies 

Why not down that trowel for a few minutes and renovate your romance with a pan of these divine fudge/brownie hybrids?

The ingredients are pretty standard, the measures are round, and you can even leave your mixer in the cupboard if you have a whisk and a spatula to hand. The mini marshmallows melt away, leaving sweet-chewy spots throughout.

Just a few quick tips to ensure success: 

1 – Don’t overbake. The squares will firm up a bit once out of the oven, and are meant to be quite moist in the centre.

2 – It’s really worth it to line the pan – right up the sides – with parchment paper. Put a thin smear of margerine in the center of your 9×13 inch pan, press a generous sheet of parchment in, finger press some hospital corners and use scissors to roughly trim the excess paper away, even with the rim of the pan. 30 seconds and you’re done!


Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in medium-high position.


1 cup margerine or butter

4 squares unsweetened or semi-sweet baking chocolate

2 large eggs

1 cup white sugar

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup chocolate chips

1.5 cups white mini marshmallows


Melt butter and chocolate in a small saucepan over low heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Beat eggs and sugars in large mixing bowl. Add cooled chocolate/butter mixture and vanilla and combine well.

Combine flour, salt and baking powder and stir thoroughly into wet ingredients.

Stir in nuts, chocolate chips and mini marshmallows.

Pour into well- greased or parchment-lined 9 x 13 inch pan and bake on high rack for 35 minutes.

Cool, slice and enjoy.  Happy Valentines Day!

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