Creative Eats

MondaySweet (in multiple ways). I think this is how you put the butter into butterfly.

Advertisements

Chocolate Pie

There is a big birthday in our extended family this weekend. The person in question has requested one of their favourites, chocolate pie. I have only made this once but it was enough to become a fan (and I don’t particularly like chocolate!). If you like chocolate, this silky smooth and very chocolately pie is for you.

Chocolate Pie
from my mum-in-law’s recipe collection

2 1/2 squares unsweetened dark chocolate, roughly chopped
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups white sugar
3 cups milk (or soy milk, in our household)
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. salt
4 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Combine chocolate squares, chocolate chips, milk, sugar, cornstarch and salt in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until it is thickened and bubbling. Add some of the hot mixture into the egg yolks and stir well. Mix the eggs into the hot mixture and cook for 3-4 minutes more, again stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into pastry or oreo cookie crumb shells and cool to room temperature. Refrigerate several hours before serving. Serve with a dollop of whipped cream.

As for the 4 egg whites that remain after making this pie… I freeze them and bake them up later into a pavlova, or add them to scrambled eggs or a frittata.

Last Taste of Summer

Voila! Strawberry-Rhubarb and Apple-Rhubarb Platz

This summer, I made a recipe from my childhood several times and each time, it was a huge hit with Jeff. Fruit Platz is a Russian Mennonite dessert that’s somewhere in between a fruit pie and a coffee cake, made with any in-season fruit. Jeff’s favourites this summer were apricot and blueberry while my favourites (shown here) remain strawberry-rhubarb and apple-rhubarb. It’s a versatile and easy dessert I’m so glad I rediscovered.

Fruit Platz
recipe from my Mom

2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
4 Tablespoons sugar
1 egg, beaten
6 Tablespoons milk
4 Tbsp. shortening or margarine
~8-10 cups sliced fruit
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup softened butter or margarine

Fruit on the platz base, just before topping is added

To make the crust: sift the first four ingredients together. Stir in egg, milk and 4 Tbsp. shortening; mixing to form dough. Transfer into a greased rimmed cookie sheet. Using a small rolling pin, bottle or glass tumbler, roll the dough over the pan to create an even base with a 1-inch lip around the rim.

Add the fruit over the crust. You can arrange the fruit as creatively as you wish- my mom used to place the fruit in four different quadrants so that everyone could choose their favourite! Note- when using rhubarb, I usually add 1/4 cup of sugar to the rhubarb to sweeten it up but that’s simply a matter of taste. Also, when I make this with frozen fruit, I toss the fruit with a few tablespoons of flour to help absorb the extra moisture.

To make the crumb topping: In a separate bowl, mix 1/2 cup softened butter or margarine, 1 cup sugar and 1/2 cup flour together to form a slightly sticky crumb topping. Spread the crumb topping all over the fruit; bake in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes or until the topping is just golden brown.

Serve warm or at room temperature with a small scoop of ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream.

Pucker Up

When it comes to dessert, I’m not a big chocolate fan (unlike my spouse). I’m nuts about citrus- and these classic bars are one of my favourites. Don’t skimp on the real lemon juice because it makes an amazing (and wonderfully tart) difference.

Lucious Lemon Bars
adapted from All Recipes

1 cup butter or margarine, softened to room temperature
1/3 cup white sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs1 1/4 cups white sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 lemons, zested and juiced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Blend together softened butter, 2 cups flour and 1/3 cup sugar. Press into the bottom of a non-greased 9 x 13 inch glass baking pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm and golden.

While the base is baking, whisk together the remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar and 1/4 cup flour. Mix in the eggs and lemon juice and beat until light and frothy. Stir in the lemon zest. When the base is finished baking, pour this lemon filling over the hot crust and return to the oven. Bake for an additional 20 minutes. Once baked, cool and serve at room temperature with a dusting of icing sugar.

The Perfect Brownie

Jeff loves chocolate. REALLY loves chocolate. He eats a little bit every day and attributes this to his perpetually sunny disposition. Brownies are difficult, however, because Jeff is also allergic to milk. It took me a while but I finally tweaked the perfect chewy, moist, chocolatey brownie made entirely of cocoa powder (no milk chocolate chips here). When Jeff is around, these brownies certainly don’t stick around long.

 Classic (and Dairy-Free) Brownies
from my own experimenting in the kitchen
makes one 8×8 pan

1/2 cup margarine (or butter), melted
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsweetened, sifted cocoa powder
1/2 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Frosting:
3 tablespoons margarine, softened
3 tablespoons unsweetened, sifted cocoa powder
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
enough icing sugar to make a thick frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Melt margarine and mix sugar in very well. Add beaten eggs and vanilla, and mix well. Sift in cocoa,  flour, salt, and baking powder. Spread batter into greased 8 inch pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. The top should look set and fairly dry, although the inside will still be moist. Be careful not overcook.

Combine frosting ingredients and mix very well. Spread frosting over brownies while they are still warm, then cool completely. Slice and enjoy!

Namesake

I started this blog when I moved here to Nanaimo as a way to keep in touch with faraway friends and family. I knew almost nothing about this city when I moved here- it was on the east coast of Vancouver Island, and was famous for its namesake dessert. That was the extent of my knowledge. When I registered this blog’s address right after moving here, it seemed only natural to choose one of these two facts as inspiration for this blog.

People ask me all the time if Nanaimo Bars were really invented in Nanaimo. Legend has it that they were the invention of a housewife, Mabel Jenkins, in the early 1950s. Mabel lived south of Nanaimo in Ladysmith, but somehow they became known as Nanaimo Bars. According to Wikipedia, there are also claims that Naniamo Bars originated in New Brunswick or New York, but us locals don’t pay attention to such nonsense (!).

In 1985, the mayor of Nanaimo held a contest to find the ultimate Nanaimo Bar recipe. The judging panel unanimously chose a recipe submitted by a local woman, Joyce Hardcastle. Her recipe is the one I use and I thought it was high time to share it here.


Classic Nanaimo Bars
yield: 12-20 servings (1 8×8 pan)

½ cup unsalted butter or margarine
¼ cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa
1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
½ c. finely chopped almonds or walnuts
1 cup coconut
½ cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream (or almond or soy milk)
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar
4 squares semi-sweet dark chocolate (1 oz. each)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter or margerine

Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. In a small bowl, beat the egg until frothy and pale yellow. Add a tablespoon of the hot cocoa mixture into the egg and stir well, then add the egg into the pot as well. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8″ x 8″ pan and refrigerate until cool.

When first layer is cooled, cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.

For final layer, melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool to warm (but still liquid) and pour over second layer. Store in refrigerator and enjoy!

Note- I often cut down the amounts of chocolate and butter on the top layer by a third to a half, as I am not a great fan of chocolate. Jeff loves the whole amount so adjust according to your personal preference.

Cherry Chocolate Cake

Jeff and I are so grateful to be part of a really vibrant small group. We meet with four other families every Thursday night for a simple supper, visit and bible study. When there is a birthday among us, we stretch our group value of simplicity to include cake.  Last week, I tried a new recipe from the Mennonite Girls Can Cook website that was a huge hit. It tasted amazing and with just three ingredients, was more simple than just about every other cake I’ve ever made. The cherries add something really delicious to the chocolate cake.

Cherry Chocolate Cake
recipes adapted from Mennonite Girls Can Cook  and All Recipes
serves 10+

1 chocolate cake mix
1 can cherry pie filling
2 eggs

Mix above ingredients (ignore what the cake mix box says to add) until they are well combined. The cherries will make the batter a little lumpy but don’t worry! Transfer to a 9 X 13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until the cake tests done. Cook and frost with the following icing:

2 cups of whipping cream
1/4 cup icing sugar
1 cup cold milk
1 package chocolate instant pudding

Whip cream until thick and sift in icing sugar. In a separate bowl, mix pudding powder and milk until well combined (again, ignoring what the pudding box directions tell you to do!). Gently fold the whipped cream into the pudding and stir well to combine. Spread over cake and refrigerate until ready to serve.

** To make this dairy free, I substitute a container of cool whip for the whipping cream and omit the icing sugar.