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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Dainty Maids

Dainty Maids are jam filled, buttery shortbread cookie tarts with a coconut macaroon topping.  Perfect for parties and celebrations!

Yesterday was Nan Gill's birthday so, of course, we had a little party to celebrate the occasion. Fifteen people, including three great and great-great grandchildren crowded into her tiny apartment to enjoy a piece of birthday cake and cup of tea to mark the day.  I made a few cookies, sandwiches and tea buns to go along with the
Nan Gill on her 84th birthday, October 22, 2016.
cake and thought we'd have a little tea party for our dear Nan.  But things don't always go as planned.  I was in the kitchen cutting and plating the last of the sandwiches when there was a terrific bang and all the lights went out.  I almost jumped out of my skin.  Jodi and her two little girls, our first guests, were in the driveway just getting out of their car and were also thoroughly startled.  Fortunately, Nan's apartment has nice big windows so there was enough light to have our party but no power to boil water for tea!  We ended up drinking ginger ale, water or apple juice.  Regardless of the lack of tea, the party was a success and Nan enjoyed her day.  And just to be contrary, the lights came back on minutes after the last guest departed!

One of the cookies I made for the party were Dainty Maids.  They are similar to a Maid of Honour cookie but instead of a cakey topping these have a coconut macaroon topping.  And I think the ingredients are easier to come by.  Maid of Honours often have rice flour as an ingredient which I doubt is a staple in most pantries. 

These are a favourite of mine.  I've been making them for years.  Dainty Maids come from Mrs. Marjorie Diamond who, many years ago, submitted the recipe to a school fundraiser cookbook.  I was in charge of sorting the recipes and I'm certainly glad I didn't miss this one.  Mrs. Diamond has long passed away but her cookies will live on.    

Dainty Maids

Shortbread Cookie Crust:
2 cups flour
1 cup butter, room temperature
½ cup icing sugar

Macaroon Topping:
1 cup unsweetened coconut, medium or fine grind
2 eggs
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature or melted
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder

½ -1 cup favourite jam

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

To make shortbread cookie crust, combine the flour, butter and icing sugar together in a medium size bowl.  Mix into a medium soft dough.  I used my hands to complete mixing.  Using about 2 tablespoons of dough, press into muffin cups to form the crust. There is no need to grease the pans.  I used a smaller muffin pan than standard (not a mini pan).  If you are using a standard size muffin pan you will need about 2 ½ -3 tablespoons dough.

To make the macaroon topping, mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl until well mixed and creamy.

Place a heaping teaspoon of jam on the bottom of the unbaked crust.  Be generous with the jam and fill according to the size pan you use.  Fill with the macaroon topping, filling almost to the top.

Bake in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes.  The edges of the crust and macaroon topping should be golden brown.  Remove from oven and let sit at least 5 minutes before removing from pans.  Place on cake rack until thoroughly cooled.*

Makes about 12-15 standard size tarts or 18-20 smaller tarts.  

*Although these should be thoroughly cooled to store, they can be served slightly warm.

Mix the soft butter, flour and icing sugar together to form a shortbread cookie dough. 

Mix the remaining ingredients together to make the creamy macaroon topping. 

Press the shortbread cookie dough into the muffin pans to form tart shells.  Use your thumb to raise the sides.

Fill each tart with your favourite jam. Use a heaping spoonful and fill according to the size of your muffin cups.  I used apricot, partridge berry and blueberry jams in the tarts.  I could have been a little more generous with the apricot jam.  Raspberry jam is also especially nice but I didn't have any in the house at the time. 

Top each jam filled tart with the macaroon filling.  The coconut mixture should almost fill the tart.   

Bake the tarts for 20-25 minutes until the crust and macaroon topping are golden brown.  Let cool about 5 minutes in pan.

Carefully remove from the muffin cups and place on baking rack to finish cooling.

I made 21 Dainty Maids using the medium sized muffin pans.  I forced myself to eat one so there wouldn't be an odd number.

Baked to a perfect golden brown.

Fresh and still a little warm, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread with jam and sweet coconut topping makes a dandy treat at any party or celebration. 

Dainty Maids– Melt-In-Your-Mouth Good!


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Spicy Zucchini Bars and a Visit to Green Valley Farm

Spicy Zucchini Bars are warm with cinnamon and cloves.  The moist cake-like textured bars are covered in a Spicy Cream Cheese Frosting.  What's not to like about that?

Thanksgiving seems as if it was weeks ago but actually it was only one week ago yesterday. (In Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving the second Monday in October.) While the family was here we all visited Green Valley Farm in Northern Arm (This is where the zucchini was purchased).  This is a working farm but on the weekends it's open to the public for all kinds of fun.  What a great time we had!  I've included a few pictures of our visit on the Sunday before Thanksgiving.   Our little ones (and big ones, too) had fun roaming around the farm, taking in the activities. 

Mommy (Anne) and Emily enjoying the wagon ride.  

 Ben is inching up, quickly passing daddy (David).  A Grand Prix racer in the making???

 Lori enjoying the slide at the playhouse.

Come on in.  We'll have a cup of tea and a slice of Nanny's Spicy Zucchini Bars.

My two pretty girls, Lori and Emily, going for a pony ride.  These are special Newfoundland ponies.  This little pony's name is Micky.  "Uncle" Bob Hemeon makes sure everyone is saddled up and ready to ride.

Mommy (Vicki) and  "Uncle" Bob walk along with Lori.

 Pop and Ben give David a blast with their Bazooka guns.  

Two mighty explorers fight their way through the corn maize.  
And you thought space was the last frontier!

I know this is a bit late for zucchini recipes but I have a huge chunk from the bottom end of a giant zucchini Anne bought when they were here at Thanksgiving.  When we visited Green Valley Farm with the little ones, Anne and Vicki decided to buy some zucchini because they were such a good price at 75 cents a pound.  (They can be really expensive in the grocery stores at $2.49 or more a pound.)  What neither of the girls realized before we arrived at the farm market was the size of the squash.  They were tremendous, making their grocery store counterparts dwarfed by their huge size.  Of course, the grocery store zucchini are really baby zucchini or at least teenage zucchini.  These farm zucchini must have been receiving old age pensions if size was any indication.  Ha, ha. 

 These are the two zucchini Vicki purchased at the farm.  Anne's was as large or even larger.  
The scissors are just for a size comparison.

Zucchini squash is such a versatile vegetable.  It's really a fruit but most of us think vegetable when we think of zucchini.  Zucchini can be served in savoury dishes or in sweets such as cakes, breads or cookies.  These Spicy Zucchini Bars fall into the cookie category but they are very similiar to zucchini bread in both texture and flavour. 

I grated the piece of zucchini and I had enough to make Zucchini Patties and these very nice Spicy Zucchini Bars.   I peeled off the skin before making the bars because it was very tough.  Smaller juvenile zucchini have tender skins that can be pierced with a fingernail but the older, larger ones may need to be peeled. 

This recipe is around the internet but I've tweaked the recipe to my liking. You can find the original recipe at the Betty Crocker recipe site.  These are super easy to make and don't require an electric mixer--just a grater, bowl and spoon. 

Spicy Zucchini Bars
⅔ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup butter, softened
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 cup flour  
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves ( I use only ¼ teaspoon cloves)
1 cup shredded zucchini, drained
½ cup chopped nuts, optional
Spicy Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease bottom and sides of an 8-or 9-inch square pan.  Line with parchment paper for easy removal.  Beat by hand, sugar, butter, vanilla and egg in large bowl.  Stir in flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves.  Stir in zucchini and nuts.  Spread in pan.  Bake 22 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean.  Cool completely.  Frost with Spicy Cream Cheese Frosting. 

Makes 24 bars (cut 4x6).  You may, of course, cut them larger if you wish.

Spicy Cream Cheese Frosting 
1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
¼ cup cream cheese, room temperature
¾ cup powdered sugar
Pinch cloves
¼ teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 or 2 teaspoons milk

Beat by hand, cream cheese and butter until well combined.  Add sugar, spices and vanilla. Mix all together until smooth.  Add milk if needed to make a creamy smooth frosting.  This makes enough for a thin coating of icing. 

I peeled my piece of zucchini because the skin was quite tough.  If you are using young/small zucchini it is not necessary to peel.

In a large bowl, mix brown sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla.  Mix the flour, salt, baking soda and spices together and mix into the creamed mixture.  The batter will be quite thick.  Mix in the grated zucchini and walnuts.  The zucchini will loosen the batter because it is quite wet.  

Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake 22-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

 Spread the cooled bars with the Spicy Cream Cheese Frosting.

Cut into 24 bars.  You may also cut them larger if you wish.  
I sprinkled a few more walnuts on top of the bars.

Spicy Zucchini Bars, perfect for a snack or the lunch box.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Spicy Pumpkin Bars or Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Moist and fragrant with aromatic spices, that tell us Autumn is truly upon us, these Spicy Pumpkin Bars or Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting will be the hit of your Fall Celebrations.  Make them as bars for less formal meals and get-togethers or for more special occasions bake in three layers for a beautiful show-stopper dessert.

I've made these Spicy Pumpkin Bars several times for the family and church dinners and they've been happily wiped off the face of the earth by those found munching and drooling over these cakey bits of spicy sweetness.  They are called bars but they are more cake than cookie and I've contemplated baking the recipe in two or three round cake pans.  Today I did just that.  I did make a few bars but most of the batter was scraped into the round cake pans.  I was delighted with the results.  Keep reading and looking at the pictures to see how the cake and bars turn out.

This delicious recipe comes from The Iowa Housewife, originally from Pillsbury Harvest Time Cookbook 1980.   Because this is a one bowl, mix-it-all-together-cake it takes only minutes to prepare the batter.  And because I have a small apartment size stove, my oven will not take the large 15x19-inch pan, I halve the recipe and bake it in a 9x13-inch pan which makes for a little thicker bar.  

I use less cloves than written in the recipe as I find it overpowering.  I've included my measurement in brackets in the recipe below.

Spicy Pumpkin Bars or Cake
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cloves
(I use ½ teaspoon)

 ½ teaspoon salt
1 cup oil
15 ounces pure canned pumpkin or 1⅞ cup*  (not pie filling)
4 eggs

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease a 15x19-inch pan if making bars or use three 8-inch cake pans, greased and floured if you are making a cake.

In large bowl, blend all ingredients at low speed until moistened. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Pour into prepared pan(s). Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 

Cool on wire rack. Frost when thoroughly cool.  See Frosting recipe below. 

Makes approximately 36 bars or one 3 layer cake serves 12-16.  You may cut servings smaller or larger depending on your own wishes.

*Note1⅞ cup is 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons.

Cream Cheese Frosting (Double ingredients if making for cake.) 
2 cups powdered sugar
½ package cream cheese (4 ounces), room temperature
¼ cup butter softened
1 Tablespoon milk, if needed
½ teaspoon vanilla

Chopped nuts for garnish, if desired

Beat frosting ingredients until well mixed. You can do this with your mixer or by hand.  The frosting will be fluffier if done with a mixer.  Frost thoroughly cooled bars or cake.    Sprinkle with nuts if desired. Pecans or walnuts are particularly good with these bars.

Place all the ingredients in the mixing bowl of your mixer.  Beat slowly until combined and then beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.  And that's all there is to it!

Prepare pan(s) by greasing and lining with parchment paper for easy removal.

You can use either the retangular pan (see picture above) for bars or three 8-inch round cake pans.  You can use 9-inch round pans as well but the cake will be a little flatter.  You will need to adjust the baking time as well. 

When the pan of bars are cool, frost with the Cream Cheese Frosting.  A few nuts sprinkled on top adds a festive touch and a nice crunch.

If you've baked the batter in round cake pans, when cool, fill and frost the top with the Cream Cheese Frosting.  Double the recipe so there is enough frosting to cover the sides as well.   I left the sides of my cake unfrosted but I did have enough frosting if I wanted to frost the sides.  Now I have to figure out what to do with the left-over frosting, ha, ha.  

Don't forget to add a nice border of nuts to your cake.  I chose pecans to decorate my cake. 

No matter which way you bake this your guests will be glad you provided such a tasty dessert. 

These spicy, fragrant bars will be gobbled up in no time.

Ready for company.  
This cake is going to Thanksgiving dinner.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Vegetarian Caesar Salad with Homemade Croutons

Tangy and lemony Vegetarian Caesar Salad with crunchy Homemade Croutons is a salad lovers delight.  This vegetarian version has no raw eggs and no anchovies.

I used to like Caesar Salad until I realized anchovies were one of the ingredients in almost every commercial salad dresssing and in most of the recipes I could find.  As a vegetarian this posed a problem for my palate as Don and I do not eat fish as well as meat.  I stopped buying Caesar dressing and no longer ordered Caesar salad in resturants.  Once I found a dressing without the anchovies but it was cheap and didn't taste very good.  I eventually just used a Ranch dressing on lettuce and made do with that. 

But I missed the tang of the Caesar dressing so I eventually started digging around the internet and found several recipes that used things such as tofu and cashew nuts.  The recipes really didn't seem that appealing (though I have nothing against tofu and cashews) and looked as if they would be too heavy on a light lettuce salad.  I didn't even try to make them and resigned myself to the Ranch dressing. 

Then just a couple of years ago I ran across a Caesar dressing recipe by Martha Stewart that used mayonnaise instead of raw egg yolk.  She still used the anchovies but that started my mind in motion as I searched for vegetarian Caesar dressing recipes.  I found several and eventually came up with a good combination of ingredients that I think make for a delightful dressing.

The salad is easily converted to vegan by using the suggested vegan alternatives. 

Vegetarian Caesar Salad Dressing
3 tablespoons lemon juice or 1 lemon juiced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced or ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoon real mayonnaise (Or use a vegan mayo to make this recipe vegan.)
¼ cup olive oil or any favourite oil you may have
1 or 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, optional (Leave out for vegan dressing.)

Use a blender or food processor for best results.  You may also use a whisk if you don't have a power machine. 

Place all ingredients in blender or bowl, except the oil.  Blend until ingredients are well mixed.  With the blender still running dribble in the oil.  If using a whisk, beat continually while adding the oil.  The mixture will not thicken significantly but the oil will be mixed in.  Stir in the Parmesan cheese if using. 

Makes about ¾ cup of dressing, enough for a family-sized salad.  Refrigerate any left-over dressing for no more than a week.

Homemade Croutons
2 or 3 slices bread, white, whole wheat, etc or a mixture
Butter, softened and/or Olive oil
Garlic powder
Italian seasoning, oregano, basil, etc.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Spread bread on both sides with butter or brush both sides with olive oil.  Or alternately you can mix butter and olive oil together.   Sprinkle both sides of bread lightly with garlic powder and your choice of seasoning.  Cut bread into small pieces and place in baking pan.  Bake 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and turn bread pieces and return to oven for an additonal 10-15 minutes until bread is toasted and dry but not burned.  Turn oven off but leave croutons in oven another few minutes to make sure they are thoroughly dry.  Let cool before using. 

Makes enough for family-sized salad.  Store any left-over croutons in tightly sealed container or plastic bag.

Vegetarian Caesar Salad
1 head of Romain lettuce, washed and dried
About ¼ cup thinly sliced mild onion, optional
1 recipe Vegetarian Caesar Salad Dressing
2 or 3 tablespoons imitation bacon bits
1 cup Homemade Croutons
Grated Parmesan cheese (Leave out for vegan salad.)

Tear or cut Romain lettuce into bite-size pieces and place in large salad bowl.  Sprinkle thinly sliced onions and imitation bacon bits over the lettuce.  Pour Vegetarian Caesar Salad Dressing over lettuce and toss all ingredients together.  Use as much dressing as necessary to coat the lettuce.  Sprinkle the croutons and Parmesan cheese over salad.  Serve any left-over dressing at the table.  Salad should be eaten immedialtely.  

Tangy and lemony Vegetarian Caesar Salad 
with crunchy Homemade Croutons.