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Thursday, December 24, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 24

 Merry Christmas, everyone! May 2021 be better and brighter than 2020.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 23 – Hard Sauce Is Easy

While traditionally served over the Christmas pudding, hard sauce works just as well on cakes, between cookies or even on mince pie. Why not? It’s basically just icing. Here are two easy ways to make it:

Easy Hard Sauce One


icing sugar

brandy or rum

Take one generous tablespoon of butter for each serving. Cream until soft. Or you can use margarine if you have a decent-tasting one. I find Becel works well and speeds up the process since it’s already soft when you take it out of the fridge. Gradually add in icing sugar until it resembles icing. Thin it back down by adding in brandy or rum a few drops at a time. You want it gloopy but not so thin it runs off the spoon. That’s it.

Easy Hard Sauce Two

Substitute room temperature store-bought vanilla frosting for the butter and icing sugar. Thin down a few drops at a time by adding in brandy or rum. The results aren’t as good but if you happen to have some unused frosting in the fridge it’s a good way to use it up.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 22 – Festive Tablecloth

Remember those paper snowflakes and garlands we were making back in the first week? Well, here’s a way to put them to use. You’ll need a dark blue tablecloth (I actually used tissue paper for purposes of illustration), an assortment of paper snowflakes and garlands, and another clear plastic tablecloth. Simply border the tablecloth with garlands and arrange the snowflakes in the middle, then cover with the plastic tablecloth to keep things protected and in place. You could use holiday-themed sequins if you have any but I’d avoid glitter as you’ll never get it off the plastic cover.

Monday, December 21, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 21 – Egg Nog

Of course you can always buy the yellow-coloured syrup with the artificial rum flavour that passes for egg nog in the grocery store. But home made tastes better and takes less than five minutes to make.


1 egg

1 level tablespoon white sugar

¼ cup table cream (10%)*

½ cup milk

dash nutmeg


Combine the first four ingredients in your Magic Bullet or blender and zap for a few seconds until foamy. Add nutmeg and your poison of choice (rum or brandy are traditional but almost anything works) and there you are. Merry Christmas!


Serves 1


*You can just use milk if you like but the texture won’t be as rich.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 20 – Room in Our Hearts

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

Luke 2: 6-16 (KJV)

Saturday, December 19, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 19: Christmas Don’t Be Late


My parents had this album and every Christmas growing up we’d listen to it. It just wouldn’t be the same without the chipmunks. Alvin? Alvin? ALVIN!!!


Friday, December 18, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 17-Christmas Stress

 Oh, Christmas Stress

(you know the tune)

Oh, Christmas stress, oh, Christmas stress,

Why must you put me to the test?

Oh, Christmas stress, oh, Christmas stress,

You've got me feeling not my best.

To trim the tree or send my cards?

Buy presents? Decorate the yard?

Oh, Christmas stress, oh, Christmas stress,

Why must you put me to the test?

I need to bake, I need to shop,

But I just feel I want to drop,

Oh, Christmas stress, oh, Christmas stress,

You've got me feeling not my best.

The tree is up, the wrapping's done,

The kids are having lots of fun.

Is that the door? I've got to run!

And may God bless us, everyone.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 16 – Animated Winter Village

I found this animated winter village, complete with instrumental Christmas music, on YouTube. It’s totally cute and charming and apparently runs for four hours (there’s about a 15-minute loop for the animation though the music doesn’t repeat). You may be interrupted by ads, however, though they are several minutes apart.


Tuesday, December 15, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 15 – Robert Frost Poem

This poem suggests to me someone dealing with Christmas stress (perhaps on their way to do the last of the shopping?) and pausing for a few minutes’ peace before getting on with things.


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Robert Frost – 1874 – 1963


Whose woods these are I think I know.

His house is in the village though;

He will not see me stopping here

To watch his woods fill up with snow.


My little horse must think it queer

To stop without a farmhouse near

Between the woods and frozen lake

The darkest evening of the year.


He gives his harness bells a shake

To ask if there is some mistake.

The only other sound’s the sweep

Of easy wind and downy flake.


The woods are lovely, dark and deep.

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

Monday, December 14, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 14 – Wooden Nativity Scene


Today I thought I’d show off the nativity scene my dad made for me years ago. He got the pattern out of a magazine and it must have been a popular one because at least one set of my in-laws also have one.

Mine’s unique, however. The original pattern didn’t have camels, but at my request Dad made me a couple. Don’t they look sweet? Though I gather in real life they’re anything but.


Sunday, December 13, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 13 – Counted With Us

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and lineage of David: to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 

Luke 2: 1-5 (KJV)


Saturday, December 12, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 12 – Christmas Truce

In December of 1914 the First World War had only been going on for five months. Things were relatively peaceful and the men in the trenches celebrated Christmas the best they could despite the cold and the wet and the mud and the enemy in their trenches nearby. In some places they were actually close enough to hear each other. Check out this amazing 2014 Christmas “advertisement” (I’ve put that in quotes because they’re not selling anything) from British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s. You might want your Kleenex handy.


Friday, December 11, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 11 – Marshmallow Sheep and Snowmen


Okay, maybe mine aren’t quite as cute as the ones in this how-to video from Kraft but I’m about to eat the evidence anyway. I didn’t have any candy eyes on hand, so I just drew them on with a toothpick dipped in the melted white chocolate. I did have a lot of trouble inserting the pretzel legs through the white chocolate coating and getting them to stay in. If I was making them again, I’d probably not coat the belly area with the coconut/chocolate mix.

Here’s a tutorial on how to make marshmallow snowmen . Looks a bit more complicated than the sheep, but still quite doable (I haven’t actually tried it).

24 Days of Christmas: December 10 - Paper Tree Garlands

It’s been a long time since I made these. My first two attempts at a freestyle one fell apart. After that I figured I’d better take a look at the instructions: . I had been only drawing half a tree, which didn’t extend from side to side, when what I needed was a whole tree that did.

I was really just looking for plain white snowmen or trees. It had never occurred to me to dress the garlands up. But the ones on this website, especially the penguins (templates provided) are adorable and I think kids could really have a lot of fun decorating them.

Also found this website showing you how to use the same process to make pop-up tree Christmas cards.

Gotta go! The shortbread needs to come out of the oven.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 9 – Landlady’s Christmas Gift

I’m taking a break today so I can finish putting the tree up. So I’m posting a link to a Christmas story I found online and really enjoyed. It’s a true story about a young woman and her first year living away from home in the big city.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 8 – Snowy Tree and Wreath Cookies


These cookies look much fancier than the candy cane ones but they take almost no time to decorate. Again, you start with a rolled cookie dough. I used the same one—in fact I made up a double batch, and used half for the candy cane cookies, half for these ones. You’ll also need wreath and tree cookie cutters, though you can also use a biscuit cutter or even a large glass to make the wreaths and cut the holes out by hand. I find the cookies roll out better on a silicone cookie sheet liner. I had to flour the first rolling but didn’t need to after that. Once you’ve cut out and baked your cookies, you’re ready for the decorating stage.


Did you know you can turn store-bought frosting into glaze using your microwave? I used the Betty Crocker Creamy Deluxe French Vanilla but according to Google most brands will work. You just put a few tablespoonfuls in a microwaveable container—custard dishes work well—and microwave for a few seconds until it melts. Stir in some green food colouring and it’s ready to apply. I brushed it on using a pastry brush and then sprinkled the cookies with unsweetened desiccated coconut. Once the glaze is dry, your cookies are ready.


Don’t like coconut? Not a problem. Cover the cookies with glaze and sprinkles instead. Give each kid their own tree to decorate and watch them get creative.

Monday, December 7, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 7 – Candy Cane Cookies


These are not the most dainty or elegant of cookies, but they’ll please those who favour quantity over looks and the kids can definitely help make them. You’ll need to make up a rolled cookie dough that can stand up to a lot of handling. I like the one in the Joy of Cooking but use the one you’re most familiar with. I suggest you use butter for the fat, not only for the flavour but because the dough will handle better.


Once you’ve made up the dough, divide it in half and tint one half with red food colouring. This will take a lot longer and a lot more food colouring than you think. You can also add a few drops of peppermint flavouring to the red dough if you like. Then wrap both halves in plastic wrap and chill for a few hours. Bring the dough back out of the fridge an hour or so before you want it so it can warm up to a pliable temperature. I generally squeeze it in my hands until it’s a good texture for rolling—think of it as a stress ball, always useful this time of year.


Once the dough’s easy to handle, divide each ball into an equal number of pieces. For each cookie, you will need to roll out a rope of white and a rope of red dough—just like the plasticine snakes you used to make in kindergarten. If you do this on a silicone cookie sheet liner, you shouldn’t need any flour to stop them from sticking. Don’t make them too thin or they’ll fall apart on you.


Then twist the ropes into a cane shape and place on a cookie sheet to be baked.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 6 – Child of Promise

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.

Luke 1:26-31


Saturday, December 5, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 5 - Paper Snowflakes

It’s gloomy out there today and I’m almost wishing it would snow to brighten things up a bit. So I’m making paper snowflakes. Here’s a link on how to make the square ones you probably remember from childhood:

It’s simple enough to turn your kids loose on.


Here’s how to make six-pointed ones:

It’s a little more complicated – that’s the first time I’ve had to use a protractor in a long time – but even young children can help if you fold the paper for them first. Lots of other cool kid crafts on this page too, like paper bowl jellyfish, and a coral reef diorama.

This site has templates and stencils for snowflakes:

Make it snow!

Friday, December 4, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 4 - Snowflake Songs

I heard these songs every Christmas growing up so even though they’re not technically Christmas songs, they’re part of my Christmas nostalgia. You know, back in the day, when someone else put up the tree and the lights, did the baking, did the cleaning, did the shopping… and all I had to do was receive and rejoice. Kind of like the very first Christmas, actually.

First up is Suzy Snowflake. I’ve got two versions for you, one which is a video made by a Chicago TV station back in 1953. Music videos are older than me? Who knew?

The second is the more familiar version, at least to me, as sung by Rosemary Clooney.


And here’s another snowflake song, a romantic piece by Jim Reeves, Hey, Hey, Hey, Snowflake.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 3 - Package from Home Fruitcake


Yes, I know I’m going to get bad jokes and comments on this post, but some of us actually like the stuff. This is based on the Canada War Cake recipe I blogged about a while ago. I thought at the time it would make a good fruitcake, so I tweaked a few things, and sure enough it does.

This does not need to be made several weeks in advance and stored away until Christmas. I had my first piece still warm from the pan and it was delicious. It’s rich and moist, while also being easy (no copious amounts of stirring required) and economical. And, apart from soaking the fruit overnight, you can make it and bake it in a little over an hour.


1 cup pecans

1 ½ cups glace fruit mix*

½ cup brandy+

1 cup brown sugar

¼ cup margarine

1 cup boiling water

2 ¼ cups flour

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon cloves

¼ cup cider vinegar

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda


The night before, combine the nuts, fruit and brandy and cover (plastic wrap is fine). Leave overnight to soak.

In a saucepan, combine sugar, margarine and water. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a 9-inch square cake pan.

Combine flour and spices in a large measuring cup.

Pour fruit mixture into a large mixing bowl. Add sugar mixture. Stir in cider vinegar, followed by baking soda. It will foam up. Stir in the flour/spice mixture. Pour into pan and bake for 45 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.

* you can use glace cherries for a more luxurious version

+ the alcohol will evaporate in the oven but you can use orange juice or apple juice instead


If you cut the squares in half, warm them in the microwave, and serve with a dollop of hard sauce, you can pass this off as Christmas pudding, so it’s actually two recipes in one.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 2 - Christina Rossetti Poem


I don’t know about you, but I woke up on December 1st with full-blown Christmas stress. And I haven’t even had time yet to fall behind on my holiday to-do list. So here’s an antidote. Find a comfy chair, make yourself a mug of hot chocolate, take a few deep breaths, and read this poem by Christina Rossetti. Repeat as needed. I like to imagine a clear winter night, snow lying on the fields, a couple of deer standing in the moonlight, a sky full of stars…



by Christina Georgina Rossetti


Love came down at Christmas,

Love all lovely, love divine;

Love was born at Christmas,

Star and angels gave the sign.


Worship we the Godhead,

Love incarnate, love divine;

Worship we our Jesus:

But wherewith for sacred sign?


Love shall be our token,

Love be yours and love be mine,

Love to God and all men,

Love for plea and gift and sign.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

24 Days of Christmas: December 1 – paper and foil stars


I learned to make these four-pointed stars in Germany back in the ‘70s. You could find lovely foil sheets in most of the department stores there, but these can also be made with ordinary paper (I used printer paper) or even cardstock, though you’d need to use a ruler and pen on the back to pre-crease the folds in that case. 

Take a square piece of paper and crease it horizontally, vertically, and on both diagonals. I’ve drawn the lines on the back of the yellow square to show where the creases go. The white one is folded on the diagonal and you can see the crease marks from the horizontal and vertical folds on it.

Cut halfway into the centre on the horizontal and vertical folds only (the dashed lines in the previous photo). Fold the cut pieces in to meet the diagonal crease, forming a point.

Continue folding the cut pieces in until you have four points. This is the back of your star.

Secure each point with a piece of tape.

Flip the star face up. Push in lightly on the corners to plump it up.

For a double-sided star, put two together, backs facing each other. Or you can stack and rotate stars as in my title photo for a more colourful, less plain vanilla effect.


I’m adding a few links for other types of stars you can make. They use aluminium foil (ooh, shiny!) which can be hard on scissors, so don’t use a pair you really care about. The first two, like my four-pointers, could be a family craft. The last one is more sophisticated and requires a glue gun, so probably not suited for the younger set.


Monday, November 30, 2020

24 Days of Christmas Project

Christmas is going to be a bit weird and different for most of us this year. All the more reason to celebrate and gain some comfort and normalcy and maybe even joy. I’ve decided to try and post something each day from December 1st to the 24th, whether it’s a craft, a recipe, a song, poem or story, or even parts of The Christmas Story itself. Please feel free to jump in with your own comments, crafts, recipes…you name it. Or maybe even start your own 24 Days of Christmas Project. The first post will go up tomorrow.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Personalized Perfume

Back in the spring, when I was reading Better Meals for Less Money, by Mary Green, I came across a recipe for homemade cologne. Well, not exactly a recipe, she just listed the essential oils and their proportions, but I was still intrigued. Would it smell anything like the original cologne from Germany, I wondered? And could it really be that simple?

I finally got my hands on the necessary combination of essential oils and tried it out. Here you are: 

1 part lavender essential oil

1 part bergamot essential oil

1 part sweet orange essential oil

1 part lemon essential oil

I dropped that into the water in my diffuser and let it run. It did smell good, light, clean, and suitable for anybody.

Back in the day that would be added to alcohol (according to Google, triple-filtered vodka works best for this) until it was as strong as you wanted it to be. I used 4 drops of each oil to 100 ml of alcohol and found it smelled good when applied but left no lasting scent. That wouldn’t be a problem if you were using it to splash someone’s temples when they felt faint (the traditional use for cologne) or were suffering from a personal heatwave (it is cooling) but for scenting handkerchiefs (also traditional) you’d need considerably more. I also found the oil kept separating out so you need to give the bottle a good shake before applying.

Other uses? Again, according to Google, people are using essential oils to scent hand sanitizer. The cologne version works well for this. I’ve also experimented with equal parts peppermint oil and grapefruit oil, which is very refreshing. And the addition of the oils makes the sanitizer somewhat less drying. You can mix and match to suit yourself--start with one or two drops and add more as needed. Just be sure the oils you are using are safe on the skin—I understand cinnamon can burn. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Basic Recipe for Biscuits and More

Just finished reading Ontario Teachers’ Manuals: Household Management by Ontario Ministry of Education, published in 1916. Home Ec sure was different back in the day. No mention of sewing, knitting or other handiwork other than as something students could do while waiting for something to cook, but they were learning how to cook complete meals, from bread and soup through to roast and dessert. Also taught were housecleaning, laundry and home nursing. My first years of home ec involved nothing more challenging than making muffins and an apron.

I came across this recipe in the manual for basic biscuits with variations and thought I’d post it. I haven’t yet tried these myself but certainly intend to. At the moment, getting some cookies baked is more pressing.


2 cups flour

½ teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons baking powder

2 tablespoons fat (butter, lard, or dripping)

About 2/3 cup milk

Like most old recipes, they don’t bother to give any directions as to how to proceed, how to cook, or how much it makes. My guess, based on similar recipes is:

Combine the dry ingredients. Cut in the fat. Stir in the milk. If it’s sticky, drop by spoonfuls, otherwise roll out and cut. A 350° oven is usually a safe bet. You’ll have to keep an eye on things to figure out how long to bake for.



Add 2 tablespoons of sugar after the fat is added.



Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and ½ cup of fruit (currants, raisins, peel, or a mixture of all) after the fat is added.



Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and use one egg and only ½ cup of milk. Beat the egg until light, add to milk, and use this for liquid. Form into round cakes about eight inches in diameter, and cut into quarters.



Add ½ cup of fruit to the scone recipe.



Same as scones but double the amount of fat.



Use the basic recipe, leaving out the fat.



Use the basic recipe to make the dough that encases the fruit.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Easy Peasy Pea Soup

Best done in a slow cooker but can be done in a large pot on the stove if you don’t mind frequent stirring and adjusting of temperature.

3 cups split yellow peas

boiling water to cover

8 cups vegetable or chicken stock

2 cups frozen vegetables for spaghetti sauce

ham bone (optional)

2 cups diced cooked ham (optional)

The night before, place peas in a 6-litre crock pot. Cover with boiling water, put the lid on the pot, and leave to soak. In the morning, drain and rinse peas and return to pot. Add remaining ingredients and cook on high for 5 hours, stirring once or twice. Reduce to low and cook another 2 hours. Remove ham bone before serving.

This is actually better reheated the following day.

If you’re opting to make a vegetarian version, just leave out the ham and add a tablespoon of olive or other vegetable oil with the rest of the ingredients.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Garam Masala Cake

I’d had to buy a bottle of garam masala back when I was trying the spicy lentil dahl recipe. As soon as I took the lid off and smelled it, I said to myself, “I need to bake with this.” So I experimented and here’s the result, a light, moist cake with an intriguing flavour. You can serve it plain, but it’s better with a vanilla frosting. 

7 ounces margarine

1 ¼ cups brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 ¼ cups flour

3 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons garam masala

2 tablespoons instant espresso

1 cup milk


Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease (if using non-stick) a 9 x 13 cake pan. Cream margarine and sugar, then add eggs and vanilla. Combine flour with baking powder, garam masala, and coffee powder. Add into creamed mixture alternately with milk. Spoon into pan and bake for 25 minutes.

I think raisins and chopped walnuts would go well in this, but I haven’t actually tried it since I’m the only one in the house that would eat it. Hmm.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Quick and Easy Tomato Vegetable Dip

I like to have a handful of carrot sticks with my lunch, but plain carrots don’t appeal to me so I usually have them with dip. However, store-bought dip containers are small and expensive, and I often run out between trips to the grocery store. Here’s an easy and tasty dip you can make up with ingredients you most likely already have on hand. 

1 part ketchup

2 parts mayonnaise

Yes, that really is it. You can add a bit of Italian seasoning if you like, or a few drops of hot sauce, but it’s perfectly good plain.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Spicy Lentil Dahl


I was inspired by THIS RECIPE by Colleen Howard at Australia’s Best Recipes. I’ve changed the ingredients to suit what I had on hand (I was missing curry powder) and my own tastes, and also changed the cooking method. It’s quick, easy, and economical, and makes a nice accompaniment to butter chicken, having a different seasoning mixture.


1 large carrot, sliced into coins

2 cups beef bouillon

1 cup red lentils, rinsed

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon chili powder

½ teaspoon garam masala

540 ml tin Aylmer Accents spicy red pepper diced tomato*


In a medium pot, bring bouillon and carrot to a boil for 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients, lentils last, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Makes 4 servings


*if you have to substitute a different style of diced tomato you may wish to add a few drops of hot sauce


Monday, August 17, 2020

Chocolate Trifle

Luxurious, decadent, and super easy. And it doesn’t heat up the kitchen. You will need: 

one recipe microwave sponge cake (the chocolate version)

one recipe microwave custard (the chocolate version)*

½ cup Bailey’s Irish Cream

1 cup whipping cream

Once the cake is cool, cut it into ¾ inch squares. Line the bottom and sides of a large bowl with it. Drizzle the Bailey’s over top. Pour the cooled custard over that. Shortly before serving, whip the cream and spoon it over the top.

You can also make this in individual bowls.

Makes 6 generous or 8 reasonable servings.


*this will come out nicer if you substitute cream for some of the milk


Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Found and Tested: Microwave Custard

I love custard, but I don’t often make it because it’s so time-consuming and painstaking to do on the stove. Between the continuous stirring so the milk doesn’t scorch and never knowing for sure if it’s reached the thickening point and can be taken off the heat, I just don’t bother. So when I found THIS RECIPE on the Australia’s Best Recipes website, I knew I had to try it.

It’s quick, it’s easy, and it comes out scorch- and lump-free. I did make one change to the directions, and that was to start by combining the sugar with the cornstarch to make the paste, rather than adding it to the milk.

I think there’s a chocolate version, and possibly a trifle, in my future.

Microwave Custard: The Chocolate Version

Place four squares of Baker's Chocolate in the bottom of the microwave container together with the milk. Stir every minute or so until the chocolate melts and the milk boils.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Homemade Ice Cream – No Ice Cream Maker Required

When I first saw this recipe for ice cream, using only evaporated milk, icing sugar, and vanilla, I was sceptical. But I had the ingredients on hand so I figured I’d give it a try. It does work. We’re not talking gourmet ice cream here, but it’s at least as good as some of the economy brands and a lot cheaper. And with no cream or eggs, and lots of air, it’s not bad for calories either.

Many of the versions I saw online described it as soft ice cream. It seemed more like regular ice cream in look and texture to me but it does melt very quickly so I recommend small portions and keeping it in the deep freeze. I’d love to give credit to the originator of the recipe but haven’t been able to find who that is. Some of the people posting it say their grandparents used to make it, so it’s obviously been around for a while. 

1 12 ounce can evaporated milk, refrigerated at least 24 hours (I used 2%)

1 cup icing sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla


Whip the evaporated milk in a large mixing bowl. It should only take a minute for it to expand into a fluffy mass. Gradually beat in the icing sugar and the vanilla. Transfer the bowl to the freezer for 45 minutes to an hour. (I put the beaters in the fridge during this period.) Rewhip for a few seconds. Repeat two or three times more. Transfer to a freezer-proof, airtight container (old ice cream tubs work well) and freeze for several hours before serving.

Makes around 8 or 9 cups



Monday, July 27, 2020

Found and Tested: Microwave Sponge Cake

It’s been a very hot summer and I quickly ran through my repertoire of desserts that didn’t require turning the oven on. So one day, out of curiosity, I asked Google if it was possible to bake a cake in the microwave. Turns out it is, and a very fine cake, too. Check out THIS RECIPE by susudup at Australia’s Best Recipes. I’ve already made both the vanilla recipe (served with CoolWhip and strawberries) and the chocolate version (cut in two layers and filled and covered with chocolate frosting). This one is definitely going in my permanent recipe file.

Do use the recommended paper towel lining. It makes it really easy to remove the cake from the pan once cooked. Do NOT remove the paper towel until the cake is quite cool. It will then pull away easily.

This took much longer to cook in my old and slow microwave but I kept putting it back in for a minute or so and checking the top. As the directions say, it’s done when it looks slightly wet on top.

When I made the chocolate version, I used three tablespoons of cocoa instead of two and left out the coffee.

For those of us still baking in Imperial, 150 ml equals 2/3 cup, 150 grams of sugar is ¾ cup, and 5 ml is one teaspoon.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Creamy Delicious Cream of Wheat

The first time I tasted cream of wheat, it seemed milky and delicate, a taste I’ve been looking for ever since. But whether I made it myself or took it from a hotel breakfast buffet, it always came out bland and watery.

I broke a filling a few days ago, and while I’m waiting for my dentist’s appointment to arrive, my breakfast options are rather limited. So I made myself a bowl of cream of wheat, and it was, as usual, bland and watery, though easy on my mouth. I wondered if substituting cream for some of the water might help the flavour. Once at the grocery store, I was scanning the shelves for coffee cream when I saw a small carton with the word “crème” on it (we live in Quebec, that’s French for cream) at 3% butterfat. Sounded good to me so I grabbed it.

We went for a long walk this morning before breakfast since it was relatively cool and dry for once. I was hungry when we got back and started preparing my cereal, substituting the cream for half of the water. As it started cooking, I wondered why I could smell vanilla. I had a second look at the cream carton and discovered it was vanilla-flavoured crème anglaise. And it made a delicious cream of wheat. Creamy, savoury. Think I’ll make it again tomorrow.

cream of wheat
crème anglaise


Make up the cream of wheat according to the package directions (I made mine in the microwave) but substitute crème anglaise for half of the water called for. Serve with brown sugar or maple syrup.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Found and Tested: Baking Soda for Beauty


Pulling down my box of Arm & Hammer to use in something a few weeks back, I noticed it had suggestions for “pure & natural personal care” printed on it. One of these was to mix a teaspoon into your shampoo once a week for “fuller, more manageable hair.” I was a bit skeptical but decided to give it a try. The worst that could happen was I’d have to wash my hair a second time.

It actually works, and I’ve been using it ever since. If you’re wedded to that super silky feel that conditioner gives you, and being able to glide a comb through wet hair, then it’s probably not for you, but it does leave my hair feeling smooth and fairly manageable and, yes, fuller, without it coming out feeling like wool, which is what usually happens if I haven’t been able to put conditioner in. As a bonus, it leaves my scalp feeling cleaner and my hair doesn’t get oily as fast. Despite the fact that we’ve been going through a horrendously hot and humid summer, I haven’t been suffering from the frizzies either.

I don’t know how it would work with blow-dried hair as I seldom do that, but mine is currently coloured and permed, and thus normally requires a lot of conditioner to keep it under control. I haven’t put any in for at least the last three weeks.


The box also suggested making a paste of baking soda to water in a 3 to 1 ratio and using it as a face scrub (don’t use near eyes). Apply gently after washing, then rinse off. That also works quite well. It leaves my rather sensitive skin feeling smooth without turning it red as many scrubs I’ve tried do. You can add a drop or two of peppermint oil for a cooling effect. I generally make more than I need for my face and use it on my hands as well.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Golden Crust Slow Cooker Bread

Back when this whole COVID business started, it seemed all my friends were passing around recipes for making bread in the slow cooker. I really couldn’t see the point. Baking bread in the oven is not difficult. Then we hit a heat wave and ran low on bread. No way did I want to turn the oven on or walk down to the store. So I got online and looked at a few recipes. Seemed like my regular recipe would work so I tried it. The bread rose well and had good taste and texture, but the loaf was round so the slices were not standard sandwich size and shape.

You can use the following recipe or substitute your own. It’s the technique that gives it that lovely golden crust, without having to finish it under the broiler of your oven.

1 cup warm water

1 tablespoon yeast

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1/8 cup melted butter

2-3 cups flour*

butter for greasing slow cooker and hands

Pour water into a large bowl and sprinkle yeast over it. Sprinkle sugar and salt over yeast. Wait for the yeast to come to the surface—should take around 5 minutes and resemble beige blobs. Stir in butter and two cups of the flour. Continue to add flour. Once it’s too hard to stir, grease your hands and work it in by kneading the dough until it becomes smooth and pliable and is no longer sticky.

Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rise until a finger poked into it leaves a permanent indentation. You can skip the rising if you’re in a hurry but the bread comes out better if you don’t. Punch the dough down and roughly form into a round.

Generously grease and flour the bottom and sides of a four-quart or six-quart slow cooker. Place the round of dough in the bottom. Cook for 90 minutes to 2 hours on the high setting. Keep an eye on it without lifting the lid if possible to see how it’s doing. Once the sides look brown, run around the outside of the bread with a spatula and remove it from the slow cooker. Flip it over and put it back in, top side down, for a further 15 minutes. That’s the secret—lots of grease in the crock pot and flipping the bread over for the last 15 minutes.


* all-purpose or bread and pastry will work but don’t use self-rising flour

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Nutella Hot Chocolate

I first tasted this in a gamers’ café in Halifax. Then the next time I was faced with an almost empty jar of Nutella, with the hazelnut-chocolatey goodness taunting me from the grooves in the jar where the spoon couldn’t reach, I decided to recreate it.

1 microwaveable mug of milk

1 almost empty jar of Nutella*

Heat the milk in the microwave. Pour it into the Nutella jar (or any spill-proof container), making sure the lid is on tight, and shake thoroughly. Pour contents back into mug and enjoy. No more wasted Nutella!

Serves one


*if you don’t have one, you can either eat your way through your current jar, or use one heaping teaspoon.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Canada War Cake (without butter, eggs or milk)

Found this in Better Meals for less Money by Mary Green, the same book my cheese drops recipe came from. My first try at it was a disaster. While the flavor was good the texture was extremely dense, so dense that even after an hour in the oven my three-inch high loaf cake (yes, it failed to rise) wasn’t cooked through. At that point I cut it in slices and threw it back in as if it was biscotti for another 20 minutes. It still wasn’t cooked but at least it was dry.

Obviously, something was wrong. Had I left something out? I looked over the ingredients and the instructions, but it didn’t look like it. Then I realized there was no acid in the recipe to activate the baking soda. So I tried it again, with a little more baking soda and some cider vinegar (original recipe can’t have used buttermilk since it claims no milk is required), and put it in a cake pan instead of a loaf pan. Success! It tastes like fruitcake but is a lot cheaper to make. Though I may try substituting candied cherries and pecans on my next attempt.

I’ve put my additions to the recipe in red. Those of you who want to try the recipe as I found it can just leave out those bits, though I don’t recommend it.

1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup shortening (I used margarine because that’s what I had on hand)
1 cup boiling water
2 cups seeded raisins (I used seedless)
½ teaspoon salt (didn’t use, baking soda will add enough sodium)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon mace (I used nutmeg)
¼ teaspoon cloves
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda (I used 1 ½ teaspoons)

In a saucepan, combine sugar, shortening, water, raisins and salt. Bring to a boil and boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Let cool. You can actually do this the day before.

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Combine spices and flour in a 2-cup measuring cup. Pour the raisin mixture into a large mixing bowl. Stir in the cider vinegar, followed by the baking soda. It should foam up. Stir in flour/spice mixture. Batter will look a bit dry but don’t worry about it. Spoon the batter into a greased, paper-lined bread pan (I used a greased 9-inch square pan) and bake one hour (I baked it for 45 minutes).

This recipe comes out amazingly well for something that’s supposed to be economical. I’m definitely adding it to my file even though I’m the only one in the house who eats stuff with raisins in it.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Cheese Drops

I found this one in another old cookbook, Better Meals for Less Money, by Mary Green. However, mine wasn’t as economical as the author intended, as I buy bread crumbs and cheese from the store rather than making my own from stale crusts and cheese rinds. It’s easy to make and requires no exotic ingredients. I generally have everything required on hand. 

2 tablespoons butter or margarine
¼ cup grated cheese*
¼ cup dry bread crumbs
1/8 teaspoon paprika (smoked is nice)
1/8 teaspoon mustard powder
few grains cayenne
2 egg whites, beaten until stiff+

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cream butter and cheese together. Mix bread crumbs with seasonings and add to cheese mixture. Fold in egg whites. Drop from a teaspoon onto a greased baking sheet or into the slots of a mini muffin pan. Bake for about 12 minutes. Best served fairly fresh from the oven as leftovers become shrivelled and eggy tasting.

Makes 8 to 12.

* I used Kraft 100% parmesan shredded. You can find it in jars in the dairy section. This is not the same as the powdered parmesan in the pasta aisle, though that would be a cheaper alternative.

+ If you’re using liquid egg whites from a carton, you’ll need to add ½ teaspoon of cream of tartar to get them to beat.

Cheese Drops Version Two

Substitute well-crumbled feta for the grated cheese and ¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning for the paprika, mustard and cayenne.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Chocolate Jelly

I found this one in yet another old cookbook, Chocolate and Cocoa Recipes by Janet MacKenzie Hill. I was a bit dubious about the whole idea but it came out well and was quick and easy to make. Though next time, I’d probably double up on the chocolate.

2 cups boiling water*
1 pinch salt
2 squares baking chocolate (semi-sweet)
1 tablespoon powdered gelatine
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Put water, salt and chocolate in a saucepan. Cook, stirring until the chocolate melts, then let it boil 3-5 minutes. Soften the gelatine in a little cold water and pour the boiling mixture over it. Stir until dissolved, then add sugar and vanilla. Pour into a mould (I didn’t bother) and set aside to harden (I put it in the fridge). Serve with cream and powdered sugar or sweetened whipped cream.

Makes about two cups.

Since we had some chocolate cake that needed to be used up, I put layers of cake and jelly in brandy snifters, then topped them with sweetened whipped cream laced with brandy.

*You can substitute milk for a creamier texture but you’ll need to stir the mixture until it cools. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a skin on top.