Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo BarsFor the mint version of this dessert, add some mint extract and green food colouring to the middle layer. This recipe will make about 32 bars.

Ingredients:

Bottom Layer:
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup white sugar
⅔ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 eggs, beaten
3 ½ cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups flaked coconut
1 cup finely chopped almonds (optional)

Middle Layer:
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup plus 2 teaspoons heavy cream
¼ cup custard powder (if you can’t find this, use vanilla pudding mix)
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon mint extract (for mint flavoured option)
2-3 drops green food colouring (for mint flavoured option)

Top Layer:
8 (1 ounce) squares semisweet baking chocolate
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon butter

Directions:

For the bottom layer:
In the top of a double boiler, combine 1cup butter, white sugar and cocoa powder. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. In a small bowl, beat the 2 eggs until they are well combined. While constantly mixing, add a small amount of the cocoa mixture to the egg mixture so that the eggs can come up to temperature. Slowly add the egg mixture to the main cocoa mixture, until both are combined. Make sure to whisk the entire time so that the eggs do not cook and curdle. The mixture will thicken up, after about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove it from the heat and mix in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and almonds (if you like). Press into the bottom of an un-greased 9×13 inch pan.

For the middle layer:
Cream together 1 cup butter, heavy cream and custard powder (pudding mix), and if using, the mint extract and food colouring, until light and fluffy. Mix in the confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Spread over the bottom layer in the pan. Chill to set.

For the top layer:
While the second layer is chilling, melt the semisweet chocolate and 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon butter together in the microwave or over low heat. Spread over the chilled bars. Return to the refrigerator to let the chocolate set before cutting into squares.

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Eggplant Salad – Баклажан Салат

Russian Eggplant SaladIngredients:

1 eggplant, peeled and sliced into 4″ strips
1 green bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
1 tomato, sliced into strips
1 onion, sliced thinly
¾ teaspoon white sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon water

Directions:

Place the eggplant, bell pepper, tomato, and onion into a large pot. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, salt, oil, vinegar, and water. Pour over the vegetables. Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes. Serve warm.

Stained Glass Window Cookies

Stained Glass CookiesThese are cookies which have open spaces which are filled with crushed hard candy. When baked, the candy melts and gives the appearance of “stained glass”. You may find that you don’t need to break up the candy first, but if you do, you might find that it melts more evenly. This recipe will make about 3 dozen cookies.

Ingredients:

⅔ cup butter or margarine
1 ¼ cups white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk/soy milk/almond milk
40 fruit flavoured hard candies

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, and line two cookies sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Stir in vanilla and eggs. In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt; add to egg mixture alternately with milk.

On a floured surface, roll the dough ¼ inch thick. Using a cookie cutter (shape of your own preference), cut out the cookies. Then taking a smaller cookie cutter than your first, cut out the centres of your newly made cookies, so that you now have a “window” for your candy to fill.

Keeping the colours separate, place candy in plastic bags and crush with a meat mallet. Using a teaspoon, gently scoop some crushed candies inside the “window frames” that you have made. Don’t put too much candy in, as the “window” will be too thick and make eating difficult. You can mix up the colours of the candies in each window if you like for a tie-dyed effect.

Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until candy is just melted. Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes, until candy is hard. Carefully lift cookies off baking sheet with spatula.

Pinwheel Cookies

Pinwheel CookiesI had an adoptive grandmother (my uncle’s wife’s mother) that used to make an AMAZING pinwheel cookie. Unfortunately, she has passed on, and this is not her recipe. I’m afraid I don’t have access to that bit of family lore. This recipe is close though! What she did differently, that I suggest is before layering the two doughs together, she lightly dusted the bottom layer of dough with a little cocoa powder and sugar. This adds a little hit of chocolate and sweetness to each bite. I also suggest slightly dampening the bottom of the top layer of dough before placing it on top of the bottom layer. This will help the two stick together better. This recipe will make about 4 dozen cookies.

Ingredients:

2 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon salt
¾ cup and 2 tablespoons and 1 teaspoon butter or margarine
⅔ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup and 3 tablespoons white sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ounce unsweetened baking chocolate

Directions:

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together into a bowl. Re-sift again into another bowl.

Beat the butter with the brown and white sugars in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla until smooth. Gradually stir in the flour mixture until evenly blended. Gather the dough into a ball, and divide into two equal parts.

Melt the unsweetened baking chocolate in a pan over low heat or in the microwave. Cool slightly, and mix the chocolate into one half of the dough until well blended.

Roll out the brown dough to ¼ inch thickness. Roll out the white dough to ¼ inch thickness, and place on top of the brown dough. Beginning on one edge, roll the doughs to make a log so the two colours spiral inside each other. Wrap the log in waxed paper, then in a cotton towel, and refrigerate at least 2 hours, but overnight is best.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets. Unwrap the dough log, and place on a clean, lightly floured surface. Slice the log into rounds ⅛ inch thick, and place on prepared baking sheets.

Bake in preheated oven until set, 5 to 6 minutes. Watch carefully to prevent edges from browning. Remove from oven, and cool on racks.

“Pizza” Cookie

pizza cookie

This is a great idea to use at a get together instead of a cake. For those that like, you can also top this “pizza” with cut up fresh fruit instead of candy if you like. This “pizza” will serve 12-16, depending how you slice it.

Ingredients:

½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
½ cup butter/margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup sweetened whipped cream or non-dairy whipped topping
¼ cup chopped walnuts/or other nut of choice
¼ cup flaked coconut (optional)
½ cup candy-coated chocolate pieces or other candy of choice

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, using an electric mixer, cream together the brown sugar, white sugar, and butter until smooth. Mix in egg and vanilla.

In a small bowl, combine the flour and baking soda and then stir it into the batter. Note, the dough will be stiff! Don’t worry about it; just mix it as best you can. You do not want a runny batter for this recipe. Mix in the mini chocolate chips.

Dampen your fingertips with bit of water or a touch of oil, and spread or pat dough onto an un-greased 12 inch pizza pan or cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown; let cool.

Just before serving, spread cookie with whipped cream. Sprinkle with nuts, coconut and chocolate candies. Cut into wedges. Refrigerate any remaining pizza cookie.

Linzer Tarts

Linzer CookieThe Linzertorte is one of the oldest known tarts with a recipe discovered in an Austrian abbey from 1653.  Johann Konrad Vogel (1796-1883) is credited with first mass producing it while Franz Holzlhuber, an Austrian émigré who worked as a baker, is recognized for introducing it to America around 1856.  Linzer cookies employ the same recipe as the Linzertorte but instead the dough is cut into cookies and two of them form a sandwich around the preserves.  Moreover, the top cookie has a small cutout in its centre (known as Linzer eyes), thus exposing the underlying jam and adding to the visual appeal.  While the traditional cutout is circular, all sorts of shapes, such as hearts, are also popular. This recipe will make 2 dozen finished tarts/cookies.

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups unsalted butter or margarine, softened
1 ⅓ cups white sugar
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour, divided
3 ½ cups finely ground almonds (or a mixture of your favourite nuts)
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup and 2 tablespoons raspberry jam (or other jam of choice)
⅔ cup confectioners’ sugar for decoration

Directions:

Beat butter and sugar together until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in ½ cup flour, the ground almonds, and cinnamon. Mix in remaining flour ½ cup at a time until the mixture becomes a slightly stiff dough.

Shape the dough into a ball; divide it in half. Wrap both halves in wax paper or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour, even better if you can leave them overnight.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface, or even better, on a piece of wax paper, roll half of the dough into a sheet ⅛ inch thick. With a 2 ½ inch cookie cutter, cut as many circles from the sheet as you can. Before separating the shapes from the remaining dough, stick your whole dough sheet (on the wax paper) in the freezer for 5 minutes. This will make separating the cut cookies from the extra dough easier and there is less of a chance that your cookies will break when you lift them. Knead the leftover scraps of dough into a ball and roll it out again into a ⅛ inch sheet. Cut out more circles. You should now have about 24 circles.

Arrange cookies on prepared baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch of space between them. Refrigerate while working with remaining dough.

Repeat the rolling and cutting process with the other half of the dough, but after placing the second batch on the baking sheet, cut out the centre of each circle with a ½ inch cookie cutter.

Bake cookies in preheated oven until light brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool on wire rack for 20 minutes.

In a small saucepan or microwavable bowl, gently heat up the jam, so that it can be easily spread. Spread a thin coating of jam on each of the base cookie rounds.

Meanwhile, take the top portion of your cookies (the ones with the cut-out sections) and lightly dust the tops of them with confectioners’ sugar. If you coat them now, you don’t have to worry about getting sugar inside your “jam window” later.

Set a cut-out cookie on top of each base cookie, pressing the two together so they make a sandwich. Serve and enjoy!

Big Soft Ginger Cookies

Chewy Ginger CookieThese big, soft cookies are extremely addictive! You have been warned! This recipe will make about 2 dozen, though I suggest doubling it due to the aforementioned addictive quality!

Ingredients:

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup margarine, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon water, orange juice or liqueur of your choice
¼ cup molasses*
2 tablespoons white sugar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the margarine and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then stir in the water and molasses. Gradually stir the sifted ingredients into the molasses mixture. Warning, this is a very sticky batter. It is best to let the dough sit for a bit (maybe 30 minutes or so) so that the sticky factor gets toned down some. Alternatively you can stick them in the freezer for about 10 minutes, or use a little bit of oil/oil spray on your hands when rolling them.

Shape dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an un-greased cookie sheet, and flatten.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

* A quick tip for when measuring molasses (or honey or other sticky ingredient), lightly coat your measuring cup with oil/oil spray first. This will let the molasses slide easily out.