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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Cabbage Apple Salad

Cabbage Apple Salad is a light and refreshing side-dish that complements a delicious, but otherwise heavy dinner or makes a great addition to a salad plate or buffet meal.  Crisp cabbage and apples in a lemony vinaigrette just makes the taste buds sing for joy!

We had our church Friendship Supper last night.  This is a meal we prepare once a month and open to the public as a gesture of friendship and fellowship for anyone who would like to attend. The meal is free but many of the lovely people who come to eat often leave a donation if they are able.  We have never requested a donation but we do receive them and are thankful for them.  Anyway, what I was going to say, before that long explanation, was that we served perogies and baked beans and I wanted some kind of lighter salad to serve with the heavier foods.  I didn't want a green salad or regular coleslaw so I went hunting on the internet.  Because perogies are of East European origin I decided I would look for some kind of authentic or authenticish Ukrainian cabbage salad to serve with them.  I eventually found a recipe on AZ Cookbook, It was simple and I could make it without any strange (to me) or unavailable ingredients so I decided this was the salad to serve.  

Dauntless, with recipe in hand, with no pretest,  I prepared a large dishpan full of the aforementioned salad for the supper to be held. I did shred the cabbage and carrots and slice the onions the night before but the actual salad was put together just minutes before it was served.  Fortunately, it proved to be a great success and I barely scraped together a serving when the supper ended.  

I made one addition to the salad (which will probably make it authenticish, rather than authentic).  I added the carrots strips because I had 4 carrots left from making the soup.  They gave the salad a little colour and I suppose a few more nutrients.  There weren't any measurements for the dressing as it was to taste so I measured and tasted and came up with, what I think is, a pleasant flavour.  You can certainly add more lemon juice or oil if you wish.

So here it is--my new favourite cabbage salad!

Cabbage Apple Salad
8 cups shredded cabbage, about 1 pound head
1 large, crisp apple, peeled or unpeeled and cut into matchstick strips (I used honeycrisp)
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut or sliced into thin strips, optional
¼ cup chopped green onion, white and green parts
¼ cup olive, sunflower or vegetable oil 
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon sugar, or to taste, optional
1 or 2 tablespoonful cranberries or partridge berries (lingonberries), fresh or dried, for garnish

Place the cabbage in a large bowl and toss the apple, onions and carrots together with the cabbage. 

Make the dressing by whisking together the oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and sugar together.  Pour the dressing over the salad and toss all ingredients to coat. 

Place the salad in a pretty serving bowl and garnish with the sour berries of your choice.  Serve immediately.  If you are making this salad several hours before serving see the note below. 

Makes 8 servings.  

Note: If you are not going to serve the salad immediately take these steps to keep the salad from becoming watery.  Place the cabbage in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon salt. Mix for about a minute and let sit for 15 minutes, to allow the juices to flow. Drain the liquid that gathers by squeezing the cabbage with your hands.  Try not to damage the cabbage while doing this.  You can also blot some of the liquid with paper toweling.  When making the salad, leave out the salt until you taste it as it may be salty enough after doing this process. 

Shred the cabbage using a sharp knife or a madoline, carefully avoiding the fingers.  Slice the onions and apple.  Make sure you have a crisp apple like a Honeycrisp or Gala.  Macintosh apples will become mushy.  Add carrots if using.

Whisk the lemon juice, oil, salt, pepper and sugar together to make the dressing.  Pour it over the salad and toss to coat.

I made the carrot strips with this peeler.  I bought it from Ben's fundraising catalogue when he was in Kindergarten.

Taste the salad and adjust for seasonings (salt, pepper, sugar) or more lemon juice.

When the salad is made place it in a nice serving dish and garnish with a few sour berries.  I used dried cranberries.

Lemony, light and refreshing!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Raisin Squares

Raisin Squares sandwich a sweet raisin filling, with a hint of lemon, between tender, flaky pastry; almost a cross between a pie and a cake.  Cut them small for a cookie square or cut them large for a delightful dessert square.  

Raisin Squares bring me right back to my childhood. Growing up in St. John's, Newfoundland, there was a wonderful bakery, Chalker's, right across the street from the school I attended that sold the most delicious raisin squares. Whenever I was lucky enough to have an extra nickle or dime I'd make an after-school detour to the bakery and buy a raisin square.  I think they cost a dime.  They also made apricot, cherry and apple squares and one peculiar square called a "Sinker" that sold for a nickle.  (If anyone reading this knows what a "Sinker" is you must have grown up in St. John's and are about my age or older.)  

The inside of the Sydney River, Nova Scotia
United Church Women's Cookbook. 
It was the raisin squares that I liked best.  The soft cake-like pastry enclosed a thick, sweet filling swimming with plumb raisins.  I would enjoy every bite, down to the last crumb before I arrived at home.  My mother was never pleased to know I'd been eating in between my meals so I just may have tried to keep that raisin square a secret indulgence.  

As a point of interest the bakery/take-out is still there but the ownership and name has changed. You'll find Fabulous Foods (aka Chalker's) at 166 Merrymeeting Road still doing a roaring business. 

Some years ago I ran across a recipe for Raisin Squares in the old and tattered United Church Women's Cookbook from Sydney River, Nova Scotia.  It's an ancient old book that my mother owned. Her brother, Walter, my uncle, had purchased several of the books in the late 1950s or early 1960s, when he passed through Nova Scotia, and gifted them to his sisters in Newfoundland. I know Mom used the cookbook as she had marked several of the recipes. But then I got my hands on it, stole it (with her permission) and started making many of the recipes myself.  The Raisin Square recipe is one of the best in the book. It reminded me so much of the Chalker's raisin squares.  The recipe needed a little tweaking as it didn't have much in the way of instructions for making the squares but I figured it out and these have been a favourite ever since.  

There was no name attributed to the Raisin Square Recipe so I can't give credit for this delectable cookie/dessert square.  I have made a few changes to the recipe over the years but otherwise, it's the same recipe. ☺

Raisin Squares

Make Raisin Filling and let cool while making the crust.  

Raisin Filling

1 250 gram package raisins/1¾ cups + 1 tablespoon
1 cup water
½ cup white sugar
Pinch salt
2½ tablespoons cornstarch
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon, about 2 tablespoons

In a saucepan bring raisins, 1 cup water, salt and sugar to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer 5 minutes.  Mix cornstarch with ¼ cup water and add to simmering raisins.  Bring back to a boil and cook 1 or 2 minutes until thick.  Stir in lemon zest and lemon juice. Remove from heat and let cool.  


2 cups flour
1 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup cold butter
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cold water


White sugar
Milk or cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9x13-inch pan or lightly grease and line with parchment paper.  

In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients together.  Cut in cold butter until crumbly. (If the butter is frozen, grate in with the large holes on a box grater.)  Beat eggs and water together and toss and mix with the crumb mixture until a dough is formed.  If dough is very soft, chill about 1 hour or until easy to handle.  

Divide the dough into two equal pieces.  On floured surface roll half the dough in a 9x13-inch rectangle to fit the pan.  The dough is quite soft and may tear.  Press together and patch any tears so there are no holes in the bottom of the crust.  Evenly spread the bottom crust with the cooled Raisin Filling. Spread the filling to almost the edge. (See pictures below.) Roll remaining dough in another 9x13-inch rectangle to fit the top of the squares and place on top of the raisins. Trim and patch top if needed.  You may want to roll the dough on waxed or parchment paper to make it easier to lift.  If dough is too soft to lift, place in freezer for a few minutes to harden.  This should make it much easier to handle.   

Brush top dough with a little milk or cream.  Sprinkle top of dough with 1 or 2 tablespoons white sugar. Bake in the preheated oven 30-40 minutes until golden brown.  Cool completely and cut into desired size squares or bars.  

I cut my squares 4 x 6 and made 24 squares.  For a larger dessert square cut 3 x 5 and make 15 squares.  You may serve these warm, instead of cold, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a delightful dessert.  

Make the raisin filling first so it can cool down while making the crust.  Combine the raisins, sugar, salt and 1 cup water together in a saucepan.  Let the mixture come to a simmer for 5 minutes.  Mix the cornstarch with the ¼ cup water and stir into the hot raisins until thickened.  Cook an additional minute then stir in the grated lemon zest and lemon juice. Set aside to cool.

To make the crust, stir the dry ingredients together to mix.  Cut in or grate in the butter.  The mixture should be crumbly.  I often keep butter in the freezer so grating it is easier than cutting it in.  Beat the eggs and water together and toss and mix the flour into a dough.

When the dough has formed, refrigerate it about an hour if it seems too soft to roll. Divide the dough in two equal pieces.  Roll out the first half and fit in the prepared pan.  You may have to fix a few tears by pressing the dough together.  Spread the Raisin Filling evenly over the bottom crust.  Spread to almost the edge.

Roll out the second piece of dough and place on top of the Raisin Filling.  Patch any noticeable tears and trim the edges if the dough is riding up the side of the pan.  Brush the top dough with a little milk or cream and sprinkle with a tablespoon or two of white sugar.

Bake 30-40 minutes until golden brown.  Let cool in pan.

Cut into squares--smaller squares to eat like cookies; larger squares for a dessert treat.

The squares remove quite easily from the pan.  If you'd like to lift out the whole lot, line the pan with parchment paper and lift using the edges of the paper as handles.

The sugar that was sprinkled on top bakes to a nice crunchy finish.

I ate this one.  One must always do a taste test!

These are so good.  As you can see, there's not much left of my Raisin Square!

A taste of childhood!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Lemon Cheesecake Trifle with Raspberries

Lemon Cheesecake Trifle with Raspberries is a delicious dessert if you are planning a special dinner. Layers of cake, lemon filling, cheesecake filling and whipped cream says "I Love You" to anyone who eats it. My family really enjoyed it and hope yours will too!

Happy Easter, everyone.  I hope you are enjoying the day with family.  We have the kiddies with us for the weekend and it was so nice eating Easter dinner together.   It's so good to have the whole family together, if only for a few short days.  I wish they lived closer and we could see each other every week. . . sigh. . .

Earlier in the week I planned dinner but what to have for dessert? There was a lemon trifle recipe that kept popping up on Facebook that seemed like it would be good but when I looked at the ingredients it was made from cake mix, instant pudding and whipped topping.  Don't get me wrong. I use all those ingredients, especially when pressed for time or if it meets my needs but it didn't seem special enough for a rare family dinner. So I thought about it earlier this week (as I was bed-ridden half the week with a sore back) and put together a very special trifle in my mind. I'd use one of my favourite cake 
recipes, make a homemade lemon filling and use real whipped cream.  Then I thought a bit more (as I was still bed-ridden) and decided a cheesecake filling would go just lovely with the tart lemon filling and what would be even better would be to throw in a few fresh raspberries.  (You know I really love you if I splash out on fresh raspberries.  This time of the year they cost almost six dollars for one cup of berries!)  Yes, this would be THE dessert for Easter dinner.  It was just lovely. . .in my mind. Ha, ha.  

By Friday, I was rearing to go.  My back was sufficiently well enough to start baking.  I baked the cake
, made the simple syrup, made the lemon and cheesecake fillings and had the whipping cream on standby to finish off the top of the trifle. I even bought fresh raspberries in hopes they wouldn't go moldy by Sunday.  (I have backup frozen berries in the freezer.) Once everything was baked or made it was time to assemble my trifle.  Putting it all together only took a few minutes.  I was so pleased the way it turned out and the taste was amazing. 

There are lots of parts to this recipe but none of them are particularly difficult.  The cake can be made well in advance and frozen until needed. Make the trifle the day before you plan to serve it to let the flavours develop and the cake to settle.  All the recipes follow except the Hot Milk Sponge Cake which is linked. 

Lemon cheesecake Trifle with Raspberries
Make and assemble the following:

1 recipe Hot Milk Sponge Cake or other sponge type cake
1 recipe simple lemon syrup (recipe below)
½ cup good quality raspberry jam, seedless if you can get it
1 recipe Tart Lemon Filling (recipe below) or 1 lemon pie filling made according to package directions
1 recipe Cheesecake filling (recipe below)
1 cup fresh or frozen whole raspberries
1 cup whipping cream, whipped and sweetened for topping (or 2 cups whipped topping)

Simple Lemon Syrup
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
4 tablespoons sugar

In a small saucepan mix the water, lemon juice and sugar together. Heat over medium heat until sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and let cool. 

Tart Lemon Filling
⅓ cup cornstarch
1 cup sugar
½ cup cold water 
1 cup boiling water
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest or the amount from 1 large lemon
Yellow food colouring, optional 

Mix cornstarch and sugar in medium size saucepan and add ½ cup cold water and mix until smooth and all lumps are gone.  Add the 1 cup boiling water, stirring until smooth. Cook over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil and is clear and thick, stirring constantly.  

In a small bowl beat egg yolks and add a little of the hot mixture, stirring as you do.  (This will temper the eggs so they don't cook like scrambled eggs.)  Add the mixed egg yolks back into the hot mixture, stirring constantly to blend.  Add 2 or 3 drops yellow food colouring, if using.  Cook an additional 2 minutes over low heat. Remove from heat.

Add butter, lemon juice and zest stirring gently until mixed.

Cover with plastic wrap and cool to room temperature.  If not using right away, keep in refrigerator until ready to use.  

Cheesecake Filling
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup milk
1 cup whipping cream, whipped or 2 cups whipped topping

In a mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth; gradually add the milk. Fold in the whipped topping. Spread over crust.

To make the trifle:

1.  Slice the cake cross-wise with a sharp knife to give you two thin layers.  Sandwich the layers together with the raspberry jam.  Cut the cake into 1-inch cubes.  Lay half the cake cubes in the bottom of a large glass bowl.  2.  Brush half the Simple Lemon Syrup over the cake cubes in the bowl.

3.  Pour half the Tart Lemon Filling over the cake.   4.  Carefully spread half the Cheesecake mixture over the lemon filling.  5. Repeat layers with remaining ingredients: cake cubes, simple syrup, lemon filling, cheesecake filling.   6.  Scatter fresh raspberries over the top cheesecake layer.  You may wish to keep a few raspberries for garnish. 

7.  Whip the cream to medium stiff peaks, adding 2 or 3 tablespoons sugar to sweeten and ½ teaspoon vanilla.

8.  Spread and swirl the whipped cream over the raspberries covering any cake that may be peaking through the layers.  

9.  Garnish with a few fresh raspberries.  10.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.  

If you push the jam slices against the inside of the bowl you will have a raspberry red layer show through.

Dig in to the lovely layers of cake, lemon filling and cheesecake filling.  

A rich and special dessert for a special occasion!