Sweet Kugel – 2016

Sweet Kugel

Sweet Kugel

That time of year again.Two days before Christmas – making the sweet kugel for Christmas dinner at Marlene’s. Can’t make just one, my sister Donna loves this kugel so one for her (for her freezer); and one for a friend also in time for Christmas dinner.

I described in detail last year how I make it – Sweet Kugel – so I won’t go into the details again. If you want to learn how it’s done click on the link.

They’ve been in the oven about 20 minutes and already the apartment is smelling wonderful!

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Death By Chocolate Brownies (Gluten Free!)

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This is what they look like – VERY chocolatey and moist.

Here’s the recipe from Delicious Obsessions (click on recipe to see an enlarged image you can print):

brownie-recipe

Here’s how I make them:

In blender put: cut up banana, vanilla, 2 eggs, maple syrup and 3 tbsp of coconut (or almond) milk and blend thoroughly

In a medium size bowl: measure out the cocoa powder and baking soda (I use 1 tsp).

Add wet to dry and mix well. I add raisins, sometimes coconut, ground pecans. (You could also add candied ginger bits if you weren’t worried about cane sugar…)

Pour into a parchment lined 8×8 or 9×9 cake pan, bake for 25-30 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

This is important: let brownies cool for at least 10 minutes before removing from pan.

The brownies freeze well. I get 16 servings from one pan – they’re so rich that I quarter the brownies, then quarter them again.

I serve with Hagen Das Limoncello Gelato (which contains, of course, diary):

lemon-gelato

Yum! The tanginess of the lemon with the intense chocolate is very satisfying. You can even go further and splash some Bailey’s Irish Cream over the whole thing but then, of course you’re adding more sugar and diary! But who really cares, right?

The recipe (without the additions) can be gluten, dairy, and grain free!

Our Traditional Sweet Kugel

My mother used to make this dish to accompany a savoury meal – not just for Christmas, she made it on other holiday occasions. I make it only at Christmas if I’m asked to – otherwise I’d simply eat the whole thing myself….

I was asked a couple of weeks ago to make the sweet kugel for Christmas dinner. The dish used to be my youngest sister’s favourite, I asked if she wanted one for her freezer. So, I was making two. Last night a friend was discussing her modest Christmas dinner with her husband and her mother – I offered to make one for her, too.

Over the last few days I have been collecting the ingredients – this afternoon I made the kugels.  


It’s a tricky dough – flour, egg, water, small amount of oil, pinch of salt. It’s very stretchy and sticky. Once rolled out (on a heavily floured board) it gets covered with cranberry sauce, strawberry jam, sliced apples, raisins, a drizzle of vegetable oil, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. THEN you try rolling it (like a strudel – which is what this kugel sort of is). I flop the edges toward the centre, then finally get my hands underneath, turn it over, and drop it into an oiled round baking dish.

Small kugels like these bake for about an hour and a half at a 325 oven. If the top starts getting too dark, I cover them with foil.

I let them cool – while still a bit warm I removed them from the baking dish (if I put them in the fridge in the original dish everything sticks and it takes a long soak to clean things up.)

Ready to be put in an oven proof dish to reheat covered with foil for about 30 minutes and then served with the turkey!

Yum!

(I put a spoon in the one for my sister – it’s definitely good.)

Christmas Shortbread Bars

Can you believe it – I could not find a version of this recipe online. As well, as long as I’ve been making this recipe (I’ve been making it for 30 or more years – I only make it once a year at Christmas time and give 7/8 of it away), I’ve never taken a photo of the finished bars! So I’ve commandeered a couple of images to represent my Christmas Shortbread Bars but while mine kind of look like these, mine are WAAY better (I’ll add pictures when I make these in December, promise)!

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The original recipe came from a box of Robin Hood Shortbread Mix (hasn’t been available for years) – with a recipe for a candied fruit topping. However I have a terrific shortbread recipe “Mrs. Cooke’s Shortbread” (which I got from a friend at least 40 years ago) which I thought would make a great base for the fruit mix. My fruit mix is rich and it’s all held together with one can of Eagle Brand Condensed Milk.

So here is the recipe:

Mrs. Cooke’s Shortbread

(I double this recipe when I make my shortbread bars because I need enough shortbread to cover a large cookie sheet)
Preheat oven 350° F

1/2 lb butter (at room temperature so you can cream it easily)
1/2 c white sugar (this year I will use coconut palm sugar which I’m sure will work as well since I’m avoiding white sugar entirely in my diet)
1 tsp vanilla extract (that’s real vanilla, please)
2 c. white all purpose flour

Cream butter, add sugar, vanilla, and last the flour; Mix well until you have a crumbly texture
Dump onto a large non-stick (or parchment lined or Silpat covered) cookie sheet
Press firmly, particularly at the edges
Pierce with a fork to allow the shortbread to expand uniformly
Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate cookie sheet 180° so the shortbread bakes evenly, then bake for another 15 minutes.
The shortbread won’t be quite fully baked but that’s how you want it because you’re going to continue baking after you add the candied fruit topping. Let the shortbread cool for 10-15 minutes before proceeding

Candied Fruit Topping

1 – 11/2 c shredded coconut (unsweetened if you have it)
1 c of mixed candied fruit (with some chopped cherries and citron)
1 c Thompson raisins (you can certainly use sultanas if you prefer them, or even currents)
1 c chopped pecans (you could use walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts chopped)
1/2 c dried cranberries
1 c bitter-sweet chocolate chips (can also use semi-sweet – the point is dark rather than milk chocolate)
1 can (room temperature) Eagle Brand Condensed Milk

Put all the topping ingredients into a large bowl, add the condensed milk and mix as well as you can – it’s a sticky mess but is it ever going to be good.

Spoon the fruit/condensed milk mixture onto the shortbread making sure you spread it evenly to cover the entire surface of the shortbread (try getting as close to the edges as you can – don’t want to waste any of this Christmas bar).

Bake 25-30 minutes at 350° – until the coconut begins to turn golden.

Cool on a rack, then cut into bars. I cut the entire concoction into 8 portions – which in turn can be cut into 12-16 bite-sized bars. This stuff is SOOO rich you don’t want to serve more (although you’ll want to eat more).

I make these Christmas bars about three-four weeks before Christmas. Slip each of the 8 portions into its own small ziploc plastic bag, store them in the fridge until I give them away.

Let me know how it goes if you decide to try them – they’ll be an instant favourite – trust me!

Bali: Farmers’ Market and Cooking Our Own Balinese Lunch

Today we were picked up early and taken to a Farmers’ Market in the north of the island.

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We got there around 9:00 but the market opens at 5:00 am. Most of the locals do their shopping before the kids get up for school.

Our guide (Sang De) walked us through the stalls stopping to tell us about the ingredients we were going to use to make our meal: tumeric, ginger, shallots, garlic, small hot peppers, large red chili, coriander seeds, kafir limes…

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The market had flowers (both edible and for offerings), spices, rice, feed for chickens and pigs, even a dry goods section:

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From the market we were taken to Sang De’s family compound where he has facilities for a cooking “school”. First he explained the layout of a Balinese family compound – a Balinese home is a multi-generational affair – including a family temple, a place for family ceremonies, as well as individual “houses” for the family groupings, a kitchen, bathroom facilities (which are communal, not part of the individual houses), and a grazing area for chickens and other small livestock.

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The kitchen was large enough that all 9 of us were involved in the meal preparation: first chopping the “spice” ingredients very finely so the mixture could be ground in a pestle. Next we cooked it in a pot, adding chicken stock, bay leaf and a leaf of kafir lime. This mixture was used to make the unripe mango soup as well as the curried chicken. It was also added to the puréed chicken thigh to make satay. We spent over an hour and a half getting the meal ready.

Before eating, Sang De explained how offerings to the gods are made as part of each meal. Balinese lives are tightly interwoven with their religious beliefs.
Offerings everywhere on the streets, on the ground in front of shops, on shrines along the streets, in lots of other locations. They consist of small woven palm leaf dishes filled with flowers and topped with a burning incense stick; beneath the flowers is an offering of the meal about to be eaten (I assume the offerings on the street are the same).

The meal was delicious (more than twice what I was able to eat), if a bit under spiced – I like.hot spicy food, but the other gals asked for mild, so while I found the food flavorful, it was lacking in heat.

We left with copies of the recipes we’d made so we’ll be able to make them when we get home.