Mini scones make a perfect little dessert or tea time treat

Watch out! These bite-sized scones are more than a little addictive. And since they’re small, it’s easy to pop one, then another,  and another in your mouth without keeping count!

Scones with jam and whipped cream

Scones with jam and whipped cream

That said, they pair perfectly with tea and are great for a party when you want to serve something a little different as a sweet. Just set out a bowl of jam or fruit spread and a bowl of clotted cream, stiffly whipped sweetened heavy cream (35% M.F.) or Cool Whip, along with a couple of knives and watch the mini mountain of sweet little biscuits disappear.

Cream Tea Scones
(Makes about 20 1-3/4 inch (4 cm) scones)

2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour or 1 cup (250 mL) each all-purpose and cake & pastry flours
2 tablespoons (30 mL) granulated sugar
1 tablespoon (15 mL) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) butter, softened
1 egg
2/3 cup (175 mL) milk or light cream

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Using pastry blender or two knives, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

In a small bowl, whisk egg; reserve 1 tablespoon (15 mL) to brush on tops of scones before baking. Stir together remaining egg and milk.

Using fork, stir egg mixture into flour mixture to make a light, soft dough. If dough seems too sticky, stir in a bit more flour. (I find I usually need a tablespoon or two (15 to 30 mL) less milk than called for so I hold back a little and only add it if necessary.)

Gather dough into a ball; on a lightly floured surface, lightly knead dough a few times until smooth. Gently flatten with hands or a rolling pin to 3/4″ (2 cm) thickness. Cut into 1-3/4 inch (4 cm) rounds with a cookie cutter. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Brush tops with reserved egg. Sprinkle sugar over tops, if desired.

Bake in a preheated 425F (220C) oven until golden brown, about 9 or 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature if scones begin to brown too quickly.

Recipe Source: Prizewinning Preserves by Yvonne Tremblay, Prentice Hall Canada, 2001. Recipe originates with food writer and author Carol Ferguson.)

* Pronounce it “skawn” (like yawn) or “skown” (like groan), as you wish!
* Don’t twist the cookie cutter when cutting out the scones or the edges will be pressed together and the scones won’t rise as high.
* Instead of mini scones, you can use a 2-1/2 inch (7 cm) round cutter or a glass to make approximately 10 larger scones.

St. Patrick’s Day recipe ideas. Green food colouring required for some!

istock_000005210471xsmall-4-leaf-cloverCount yourself lucky to find these great recipes to help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Have fun being Irish for a day!

Cooking Quarters blog:

Kraft Canada’s website:

McCormick’s website:

Muffins pack a triple apricot flavour punch

Dried apricot, apricot nectar and apricot jam make these apricot muffins flavour-full!

These muffins are full of apricot flavour and a surprise centre!

It may not be the season for fresh apricots in wintry southern Ontario, but you can make muffins that are ripe with the sunny flavour of apricots by using dried apricots and apricot nectar in the muffin batter, and apricot jam as the sweet surprise centre!


Apricot Flavour-Full Muffins

(Makes 12)

1 cup (250 mL) boiling water
3/4 cup (175 mL) finely chopped dried apricots
2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped walnuts or pecans
1 tablespoon (15 mL) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) salt
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) baking soda
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter or hard margarine, softened
2/3 cup (150 mL) sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup (125 mL) apricot nectar
1/4 cup (60 mL) milk
1 teaspoon (5 mL) lemon juice
1/2 cup (125 mL) apricot jam

Spray 12 muffin cups with cooking spray or lightly grease with cooking oil.

Pour boiling water over apricots in small heatproof bowl. Let stand 10 minutes until softened.

Meanwhile, measure flour, nuts, baking powder, salt and baking soda into a large bowl; stir. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients.

With electric mixer, beat butter and sugar in a medium bowl until well blended. Add egg; beat well. Add apricot nectar, milk and lemon juice; stir to combine. Pour mixture into well in dry ingredients.

Drain apricots; add to well. Stir just until all ingredients are moistened.

Fill muffin cups half full with batter. Make a small dent in the batter in each cup with the back of a spoon. Spoon 2 teaspoons (10 mL) jam into each dent. Spoon remaining batter over top.

Bake in a preheated 375F (190C) oven until muffins are firm to the touch, about 18 to 20 minutes. Let stand in pan for 5 minutes before removing muffins to cool on a wire rack.

* Use peach or raspberry jam, or marmalade instead of apricot jam.

Recipe Source: Mostly Muffins by Jean Pare, Company’s Coming Publishing Limited, 2006

Serve dip and ‘dums for your Super Bowl party



I was first introduced to pappadums at a Grey Cup party about 25 years ago. (The Grey Cup is the Canadian Football League’s version of the Super Bowl.)

Served alongside chili, potato chips, chicken wings, and other more typical fare for hungry football fans, these thin, crisp wafers made from lentil and rice flours were a novelty back then.

Pappadums are likely still not standard Grey Cup or Super Bowl party fare today. They are most often served as an accompaniment to Indian food, but they also go well with dips and chutneys and can be served as a snack or an appetizer, or as an accompaniment to soups, stews or chilis. Hmmm, why not serve them at a football championship party? Sounds as though they’d easily fit most menus.

Patak's PappadumsYou can purchase dried pappadums under a few different brand names. In my local grocery store, I can buy plain, garlic or black peppercorn pappadums under the Patak’s label.

Patak’s pappadums are sold in packages of 10 thin, flat discs. The pappadums must be fried in oil, baked in a microwave oven, or roasted over an open flame before serving.

I prefer to prepare them in a microwave oven, first lightly brushing them with oil on both sides. Then, one at a time, they are popped into the microwave to cook on High power for 45 to 60 seconds or until they expand. And expand they will! As they cook, the dried discs magically morph into crisp crackers with a multitude of craters and ridges!

This dip goes well with a plate of crisp pappadums.

Bean Dip

(Makes 4 servings)

1 cup (250 mL) canned drained kidney beans, rinsed
1/2 cup (125 mL) coarsely chopped cilantro
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon (1 mL) ground cumin
3 tablespoons (45 mL) low-fat plain yogurt
1 teaspoon (5 mL) lemon juice

In food processor or blender, combine all ingredients; blend until smooth. Serve with pappadums, naan or pita bread.

Cinnamon Toast: sweet, cinnamon-y and simple!

The heady aroma of cinnamon greeted me a couple days ago when I entered the building where I work. It smelled as deliciously enticing as the aisle where the Cinnabon store is located in my local shopping mall.

Unfortunately I was not greeted with an oversized cinnamon bun oozing with a buttery cinnamon-sugar filling and dripping with icing. No, a co-worker had simply made cinnamon toast to start her day, permeating the office with the sweet smell of the familiar spice.

It was a fragrant reminder that sometimes the simple things are truly the best.

Savour the aroma and taste of Cinnamon Toast!

Savour the aroma and taste of Cinnamon Toast!

To make Cinnamon Toast, you can either toast or broil the bread. Either way, it’s is a deliciously simple treat!

Cinnamon Toast

(Makes 4 slices)

2 tablespoons (30 mL) granulated or brown sugar
1/2  teaspoon (2 mL) ground cinnamon
4 slices bread
Butter or margarine, at room temperature

Combine sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.

Method 1: Toast bread. Spread with butter. Sprinkle sugar-cinnamon mixture over top.

Method 2: Place slices of bread on a baking sheet. Spread each slice with butter. Sprinkle sugar-cinnamon mixture over top. Broil bread 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 cm) from grill until cinnamon-sugar topping is bubbly, about a minute or two. Watch closely so bread doesn’t burn.


* Use the bread of your choice (whole wheat, white, Challah, French, etc.) or English muffins or bagels.
* Vary the proportion of sugar and cinnamon as you like.
* Make up extra topping mixture and fill a small spice bottle, container or sugar shaker so you can readily make cinnamon toast whenever the craving hits.
* If you’re a chocolate lover, add a little cocoa powder or some finely grated chocolate to the sugar-cinnamon mixture.

What to eat or drink or do during cold and flu season

Have you been hit by the cold bug that seems to be making the rounds?  Or caught a nasty flu bug?

If you haven’t been afflicted yet, count your blessings, and pray your turn won’t come! Then read on so you’ll know what to eat or drink to prevent getting your turn, or what to do if your temperature begins to soar or you find yourself reaching for the box of tissues.

If you have caught one or both bugs, you should read on too. Some of the suggestions below may help lessen the severity of your illness, and prevent additional bouts of cold or flu this winter.

When it comes to curing what ails them, some people turn to herbal remedies, others to pills. There are those who have their tried-and-true, often home-spun remedies handed down through the generations. Some of these “cures” may seem a little bizarre, although their proponents will swear by them.

I suffered from a nasty cold over Christmas while visiting my family in Winnipeg. My mom suggested I try something from my childhood – a mustard plaster, minus the mustard! I was a bit apprehensive, but felt miserable enough to give it a try.

First I placed a warm wet towel on my chest. That was followed by a piece of plastic, then a dry towel that had been warmed in the microwave. (Tossing it in the dryer briefly would work too.) I put on my pajama top over the layers, and then pinned everything together with safety pins so the layers would stay in place. Logically, you should be lying in your bed at this point so you can just pull the covers up around you, stay toasty warm, rest and get better. But I decided to wander around the house for a few minutes, then crawl into bed. By this point the warm towels had cooled off considerably.

I believe the theory here is that the heat of the layered towels will sweat out the virus/germs or whatever is causing the chest congestion/aches/pains/cough and you will feel much better the next day.

So, did it help?

Let’s just say it didn’t make things worse! To be fair, the towels had probably cooled off too quickly to be really effective.

I recall mustard being involved somehow in this treatment of my youth. I think a paste was made with dry mustard, flour and water and that concoction was applied directly to the chest. The towels and plastic were then layered over top. You had to be careful you didn’t leave the mustard plaster on too long or you could burn or blister your skin. Guess the layers generated a fair amount of heat that warmed the chest and and cleared out the congestion. Probably if you’d chowed down on a hot dog at the same time, you’d have been healed in minutes! LOL!

Here are a few other supposed “cures” for the common cold and influenza.  (Please Note: I haven’t tried any of them. I’m not endorsing any of them. I’m just reporting what I’ve read or heard because I find some of these suggestions rather entertaining. If you’re intrigued or brave enough to give the more interesting ideas a whirl, please proceed with caution! Following this list is a link to the Mayo Clinic’s remedies for colds and flu. Let me know if you have any remedies you swear by.)

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Hallowe’en Fun with Food

Happy Hallowe'en!

Happy Hallowe'en

Hallowe’en is the perfect holiday to go over the top with decorations and party food. It’s probably the only time of year when poor taste and “grossness” are preferred, or at least tolerated.

If you’re planning a Hallowe’en menu, you can go all out and spend lots of time, money and energy on creating a “terrorific” atmosphere at the dinner table. Or you can unleash your imagination and stir up little home-brewed ambiance by simply renaming favorite foods.

Need some inspiration?

Why not serve worms and eyeballs and dried bones (spaghetti and meatballs and biscuits) for supper? Or how about witch’s fingers and slime sauce (chicken strips and ranch dressing or plum sauce dyed green) or barbequed bat wings (chicken wings) or witches’ brew and dracula diggers (chili and tortilla chips)?

Wild and whacky side dishes might include grass and weeds with sliced toadstools and witch’s teeth (salad greens with mushrooms and sunflower seeds), maggots (rice), rotting teeth (corn) or lizard tongues (sautéed red pepper strips or carrot sticks).

Pond scum (jello with gummi worms) or bones (meringue cookies) make delicious desserts, and swamp water (frozen lemonade concentrate, lemon-lime pop and lime sherbet) will wash the meal down.

Sounds tasty, doesn’t it?

Here are a couple recipes for dried bones. Bon Appetit!

Breadstick Bones
(Makes 6 breadsticks)

1 can refrigerated breadsticks
Melted butter or margarine
Italian seasoning, Tex Mex seasoning or grated Parmesan cheese

Open can and unroll dough; separate into 6 strips. Carefully stretch each strip until about 12 inches (30 cm) long. Loosely tie a knot in both ends of each breadstick. Place breadsticks on an ungreased baking sheet.

Brush melted butter over breadsticks. Sprinkle seasoning or cheese over top.

Bake in a preheated 375F (190C) oven until golden brown, about 13 to 15 minutes. Serve warm.


Meringue Bones
(Makes about 2 dozen cookies)

5 egg whites
1/4 tsp (1 mL) cream of tartar
1-1/4 cups (300 mL) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla, orange or lemon extract

Line 1 or 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Prepare a piping bag with a round tip (about 3/8 inch/1 cm diameter).

With an electric mixer, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, a couple tablespoons (about 30 mL) at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat until stiff peaks form and meringue is shiny and smooth. Add extract and beat just until combined.

Fill piping bag with meringue. Pipe a log about 3 inches (8 cm) long. Pipe two balls on both sides of the ends of the log. Repeat with remaining meringue. You can smooth any peaks that occur with a wet finger.

Bake in a preheated 220F (105C) oven for 30 minutes. Turn off heat. Leave cookies in oven for 8 hours or overnight. Store in an airtight container.

* Let egg whites stand at room temperature for 20 minutes after separating; they will beat to a greater volume if they aren’t cold.

* Stirring a drop or two of yellow food colouring into the meringue mixture before baking will give the bones an aged look.

* If you don’t have a piping bag, use a sturdy ziplock bag. Cut off the tip once you have filled the bag with meringue mixture.

Pucker up, biscuit lovers!

Biscuit Lips
Biscuit Lips

No lip liner, botox injections or other enhancements needed to make these puffed and pouty babies! These hot lips are meant to be devoured as a fun, if not somewhat unusual, accompaniment (in appearance, that is!) to soups, stews or salads. Given a sensual slathering of strawberry or raspberry jam (or whatever flavour you prefer – red just seemed appropriate!), you could also serve them for dessert or tea.

These biscuits are slightly on the sweet side. I’d knock back the sugar to 1 tablespoon (15 mL) or eliminate it altogether if you don’t plan to serve the biscuits alongside a savoury dish.

To create the lip look, roll out the biscuit dough and cut out rounds. Score (cut a line across the diameter) each circle without cutting all the way through. Butter the surface (the next time I make this recipe, I’m going to spread the circle with a generous amount of jam), then fold one half over to form a half circle. As they bake, the lip shape will form.

Biscuit Lips
(Makes about 20)

2 cups (500 mL) all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons (20 mL) baking powder
2 tablespoons (30 mL) sugar
1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt
1/3 cup (75 mL) cold butter or margarine
3/4 cup (225 mL) milk
Butter or margarine, for spreading (optional)

Mix flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Cut in or work in butter with a pastry blender or a couple knives until mixture is crumbly. Add milk; stir with a fork until mixture begins to adhere together. Gather into a ball and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead gently 10 times.

With a rolling pin, roll out until 1/4-inch (1.5 cm) thick. Cut into approximately 2-3/4-inch (7 cm) circles. Cut through centre of each circle with a sharp knife just to barely score the surface. Spread with butter, if desired. Fold over, butter side in, and press edges together gently. Arrange on a lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake in a preheated 425F (220C) oven until biscuits are risen and lightly browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Recipe Source: Soups and Sandwiches by Jean Pare, Company’s Coming Publishing Limited, 1987

A St. Patrick’s Day menu – snake free!

Although I like to watch Survivor on TV, I could never participate in the game. There are many reasons, not the least of which is that there are always snakes slithering or swimming about in whatever location the show is filmed.

I’m not a fan of snakes. I figure the game of Survivor could probably use Ireland’s patron saint, St. Patrick. He is said to have rid Ireland of snakes and is commemorated annually on March 17, the date of his death in 460 A. D.

How he actually performed this feat is the stuff of legends. A popular explanation is that one day St. Patrick created a nice cozy box and invited the chief snake to climb in. The snake took a look at the box and deemed it too small. A heated discussion ensued. To prove he was right, the snake crawled into the box. Quick-thinking St. Paddy slammed the lid shut and threw the box into the sea!

To this day, Ireland is said to be snake-free (lucky Irish!), and some insist that the rough waters of the Irish Sea are caused by the boisterous attempts of the snake still trying to free himself from the box.

On March 17, whether you wish to celebrate a snake-free Ireland or the pleasure of swilling green beer, take the opportunity to indulge in some hearty Irish cuisine. Vegetables such as potatoes, onions, leeks, carrots and rutabagas figure prominently in Irish cooking, as do lamb stews, and braised meat and corned beef dishes. Accompany the main dish with potato bread or soda, and finish the meal with a sweet custard or apple cake, and an Irish coffee.

Irish Stew
(Makes 8 servings)

If lamb shanks are not available, thick shoulder chops can be substituted.

8 lamb shanks
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon each (5 mL) dried thyme and rosemary (or 1 tablespoon/15 mL) chopped fresh
2 bottles (341 mL each) stout-based beer
3 cups (750 mL) beef stock or broth
1/4 cup (60 mL) butter
3 tablespoons (45 mL) packed brown sugar
3 onions, cut in wedges
3 carrots, cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
3 parsnips, peeled and cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces
Half a rutabaga, peeled and cut in 1-inch (2.5 cm) chunks
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped fresh parsley

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Making edible snowflakes

It’s March Break in Ontario and students are out of school for the week.

If you’re running out of things to do with your brood during the Break, consider spending time with them in the kitchen making edible snowflakes!

The kids will enjoy cutting snowflake shapes out of soft tortillas, then broiling them (with an adult’s supervision), and dusting each faux snowflake with icing sugar. They’re crisp, slightly sweet, cinnamon-scented and flavoured, and just plain fun to eat!
And since there’s not much you can do about the mountains of real snow still on the ground outside, helping the edible stuff disappear inside may give everyone at least some satisfaction!

Tortilla Snowflakes

Small flour tortillas
Melted butter
Cinnamon sugar (3 tablespoons (45 mL) sugar and 1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground cinnamon)
Icing sugar

Preheat broiler.

Gently fold the tortilla in half without making a crease, then in half again. Hold the folds together without creasing the folds firmly into the tortilla. With kitchen scissors, cut out shapes and designs from the folded edges of the tortilla. Cut through all the layers, being careful not to tear the tortilla.

Open the tortilla and place it flat on a baking sheet. It should look like a snowflake. If more design is needed, carefully refold the tortilla and add more cuts. Repeat to make as many snowflakes as desired. (The number of snowflakes that can be broiled at one time will depend on the size of the snowflakes and the baking sheet.)

Using a pastry brush or an unused inexpensive artist’s paint brush, brush snowflakes with melted butter. Pick up a pinch of cinnamon sugar between your fingers and sprinkle over the snowflakes. Repeat with more cinnamon sugar until top of each snowflake is lightly covered.

Place the baking sheet with tortilla snowflakes under the broiler just until snowflakes begins to brown. Watch carefully; this only takes a minute or so. Wearing oven mitts, remove the baking sheet from the oven. Let snowflakes cool for a few minutes.

With a turner, remove snowflakes from the baking sheet to a wire rack. Let snowflakes rest for a few minutes to cool and firm. Sprinkle each with icing sugar.


* Cocoa Snowflakes: Stir 1 teaspoon (5 mL) cocoa powder into cinnamon sugar mixture. Continue with recipe as directed.

* Cheese Snowflakes: Sprinkle grated Mozzarella or Swiss cheese on the tortilla snowflake, being careful to keep cheese on the tortilla and not in the holes. Place snowflakes under broiler to brown and crisp a little, 1 to 2 minutes. Let cool and firm on a wire rack.

Recipe Source: Adapted from Cooking Art by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Jean Potter, Gryphon House, 1997