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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Jumbo Raisin Cookies

When one thinks of a raisin cookie, oatmeal often comes to mind but there's not a flake of oats in these cookies.  The cookies are made from a rather soft dough which produces a cakey textured cookie.  Soft, spicy pillows of raisin-studded cookie dough are baked to a golden brown with a slightly chewy crust.  These are some of my favourite cookies.  Every time I make them I wonder why I don't make them more often.  (Possibly, because I'd eat too many!)  

This Jumbo Raisin Cookie recipe comes from the old United Church cookbook from Sydney River in Nova Scotia and was submitted by Glennis Farquhar.  I don't know if Mrs. Farquhar is still living but her cookies are still going strong. My uncle, mom's brother, bought several of the books away back in the 1960s, when he was passing through that area, and passed them out to his sisters.  Uncle Walter and Aunt Lorraine were teachers and lived in the United States but every summer they would make the pilgrimage back home.  Nanny Garland looked forward to the summers when her son would come home for a few weeks.   Their annual visits were as certain as summer following spring. 

Many years later I asked mom if I could have the cookbook and she gave it to me.  The original blue covers have long disappeared and I keep the book in a plastic bag so I don't lose the pages.   

These Jumbo Raisin Cookies just scream for a glass of milk so grab the milk carton and pour yourself a tall, frosty glass.  Try to leave a few cookies for the rest of the family. 

Jumbo Raisin Cookies
1 cup water
2 cups raisins
1 cup butter
2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, etc.), optional
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
¼  teaspoon nutmeg
¼  teaspoon allspice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare cookie sheets by greasing or lining with parchment paper. 

Simmer raisins and water together 5 minutes. Cool.

In mixer, cream shortening and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.  Add vanilla.  Turn mixer speed to low and add cooled raisin mixture and nuts if using.  

Sift together flour, baking powder, soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice.  Add flour mixture to raisin mixture and blend well.  Drop by tablespoons on greased cookie sheet.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 14-16 minutes.

Cool thoroughly before storing in covered container.  Makes about 4½ dozen cookies.

 Simmer raisins and water together 5 minutes. Cool.
While raisins are cooling, cream the butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla together.
Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, soda and spices together.  A whisk is handy for mixing everything together.

When the raisins have cooled mix them into the creamed mixture.  Add the nuts at this time if you are using them.  I love nuts in these cookies but today I'm making them nut-free because they are going to a church dinner.  Then add the flour mixture until everything is well blended.

Spoon dough unto prepared pan.  I used a cookie scoop and pressed the dough just slightly.  Parchment paper can be used several times.

Here are two test cookie I baked.  The one on the left was not pressed down and the one on the right was pressed.  They are good either way you bake them.

Bake cookies until they turn golden and and slightly crisp on the edges.
Cool the cookies on a baking rack.
Soft, delicious pillows of spicy raisin cookies.
Piles of cookie goodness.

 Cookies and milk.  
No better comfort food.

Thursday, April 14, 2016


Haystacks. . . What can I say?  They are iconic of the food culture of my church.  We eat them at Sabbath potlucks, Friday night suppers, camp meeting, parties, picnics, baby and wedding showers, church socials, and anywhere a large group of people needs to be fed.   If you are interested you can read about Haystack history by clicking on the link here.

Haystacks are definitely a one dish meal comprised of the four food groups but at the same time are very flexible and can be adjusted to suit just about anyone's taste. I have a friend who only has the chips, cheese and lettuce but most people load up and make a meal out of the layers of tasty goodness.  If for some reason there are people who don't like sour cream or salsa, ranch salad dressing and ketchup can be used.  Actually, any favourite salad dressing can be used on a Haystack.  If you prefer a vegan Haystack, use a vegan cheese and skip the sour cream. 

Haystacks are a favourite meal at our house. Don could eat them every day and be happy about his meal plan.  I don't always use Bean Chili in Haystacks.  I sometimes open a can of beans (black, pinto, kidney, 6 blend or chili style, etc.) and warm them up with a couple of spoonfuls of salsa.  Most of the time we have rice but if I'm running late I may skip the rice and use corn.  Did I mention how flexable Haystacks are?  Every family makes them a little different by adding or subtracting ingredients.  The basic Haystack is chips, chili, cheese, lettuce and tomato.  After that it's anyone's choice what's piled on.   What's your favourite Haystack ingredients?


Use enough of the following for each person:
Corn or tortilla chips
Bean Chili with Veggie Burger or hot beans (pinto, black, chili style, etc., canned or homemade)
Hot cooked rice, optional
Grated cheddar cheese
Shredded or chopped lettuce
Diced tomatoes

Salad Vegetables, at least 2 or 3 (or as many as you like) of the following:
--Diced sweet peppers, any or all colours
--Diced cucumber
--Diced avocado or guacamole
--Sliced green onion or finely diced sweet onion
--Sliced olives
--Grated carrots
--Diced pickles (Anne loves dill pickles on her Haystack.)
--Corn niblets (Vicki loves corn on her Haystack.)
--Sliced pickled jalapenos (For those who like it hot.)

Sour cream and/or ranch dressing
Salsa or taco sauce or hot sauce

Build each Haystack with a base of corn/tortilla chips.  Then layer on the chili or beans, rice, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and any other vegetable toppings you wish.  Dress with sour cream and salsa (or salad dressing and ketchup if you wish). 

This is how I assemble my Haystack.  Start with a good foundation of corn or tortilla chips. (I prefer corn chips.)  Add a good ladle of Bean Chili or hot beans and then add hot rice.  I like to add a layer of cheese on top of the hot rice.  Some people like to put their cheese on with the veggies but I like my cheese to melt into the hot rice and beans.  Then add shredded lettuce and tomatoes and as many salad toppings as you prefer.  Top everything with salsa and sour cream.  Then find a fork and napkin and dig in.  

Recently my church hosted a luncheon meeting of the local ministerial association and we served Haystacks. 

This is a collage of the table when we served the pastors the Haystacks. From left to right you can see corn chips, tortilla chips, bean chili, rice, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet peppers, green onions, olives, salsa, sour cream, hot sauce and jalapeno peppers.  We also had a few carrot dinner rolls for anyone who wanted one.  

 This is Don's plate.  
I literally snached this away from him while he was eating to take a picture.  

 Don's plate taken from the uneaten side.

 My plate.  You can't see the chili but it's there underneath the rice.

Grab a fork and napkin and dig in!

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Bean Chili with Veggie Burger

When you want something hot and filling but don't have much time Bean Chili with Veggie Burger fills the bill.  If you don't have or want the veggie burger just leave it out and you'll still have a nourishing, tasty dish that can be served several ways.  

I've been making this Bean Chili for years, mainly because it is not only tasty but it's quick.  With this very basic chili I can have dinner or supper on the table in 30 minutes. That was important for me as a working mom with three hungry guys waiting to fill their empty stomachs. With a pot of rice, some grated cheese, sour cream and a bag of corn chips the meal would be well under way.  A nice green salad to round out the meal would make everything complete.  On a lucky night we might even have fresh rolls.  

Get your can opener ready. . . let's make Bean Chili with Veggie Burger.  

Bean Chili with Veggie Burger
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
1 cup diced sweet peppers (I like a mix of colours.)
1 -284 ml/10 fl. oz. can sliced mushrooms, drained
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1-2 teaspoons chili powder, or to taste
Pinch garlic powder
½ package/can veggie burger*
1 -540 ml/19 fl. oz. can beans, your choice (kidney, black, pinto, 6 bean blend, etc.), rinsed and drained*
1 -796 ml/28  fl. oz. can diced tomatoes, plain or chili style
½ cup frozen or canned corn niblets, optional
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar, if you like a sweeter chili
Salt to taste

Grated cheese
Sour cream
Corn chips

In a large pot, over medium heat, saute the diced onion, pepper and mushrooms in the oil until soft but not brown.  Add the chili powder and garlic and cook and stir about 1 minute.  Add the veggie burger and cook a few more minutes stirring occasionally so the mixture won’t stick.  Add the rinsed and drained beans and the canned tomatoes.  Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more chili and salt if needed.  If you like a sweet chili add the sugar as well. Simmer the chili 15-20 minutes.  If it seems a little dry add a small amount of water.  Before serving add the corn, if using.

Serve the Bean Chili in a bowl as you would soup or over rice.  Serve plain or top with cheese and sour cream and sprinkle with a few corn chips if you like.

*If you are not using the veggie burger, use 2 cans of beans.

Saute onions, peppers and mushrooms in the oil until soft.  
Can't see the mushroom?  I forgot to put them in!

Cooking the chili and garlic powders helps to bring out the flavours.

Cook the veggie burger for a few minutes.  I use about half a package or can.  You can use more or leave it out all together.

Today I used a can of 6 blend beans.  Black, pinto and kidney beans all make excellent chili.  Use 2 cans of beans if you don't use the veggie burger.

 6 Blend Beans used in the chili.

When the beans and veggie burger have been added to the pot, add the tomatoes.  I used the chili style diced tomatoes.  I didn't need to add extra chili powder as the tomatoes were spicy enough.

Taste and adjust the seasoning.  I find I sometimes need to add more chili but I seldom need salt.  Simmer the chili for 15-20 minutes.  If it seems too dry add a little water.

If you like corn add it the last few minutes.  It add a nice sweetness to the chili.  If you like a sweeter chili add a tablespoon or two of brown sugar.  

My dinner today--Bean Chili with Veggie Burger.  
I garnished with a spoonful of sour cream and a few corn chips.

Easy and quick Bean Chili with Veggie Burger.
Satisfying and delicous!