Tuesday, December 23, 2014


     In Sweden, Pepparkakor (also called Gingersnaps or Ginger Thins) are a traditional Christmas treat.

     The Pepparkakor usually are cut in the shape of little men and women, pigs, or hearts. Sometimes, they are decorated with frosting.

     Pepparkakor also are eaten year round.  Although if it's not Christmastime, they usually are not homemade and are just round in shape.

     In Sweden, it is customary to place the Pepparkakor in the palm of your hand and make a wish.  Then, using the index finger or thumb of your other hand, tap the cookie in the middle.  According to Swedish tradition, if the Pepparkakor breaks into three pieces, your wish will come true.

I intended to make Pepparkakor using one of the many recipes I found on the Internet.  However, I ran out of time.  So instead, I purchased Anna's Ginger Thins at Walmart.

They were quite delicious...although, not as yummy as homemade would have been, I'm sure!  
;9  Sometimes, you just have to go with Plan B!

   A Cookie for Every Country
   Walmart (photo)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Nanaimo Bar

I made Nanaimo Bar today.

     The Nanaimo Bar is a dessert which requires no baking and is named after the west coast city of Nanaimo, British Columbia.

     The exact origin of the Nanaimo Bar is unknown.  The earliest confirmed printed copy of the recipe called "Nanaimo Bars" appears in a cookbook from 1953.  However, the same recipe was published in the Vancouver Sun earlier that same year and called "London Fog Bar."

     Legend dates the bars back to the 1930s when they were called "Chocolate Fridge Cake."

source:  Wikipedia

Here is the recipe I used:

Nanaimo Bar

Bottom Layer:
     1/2 cup unsalted butter
     1/4 cup sugar
     5 tablespoons cocoa
     1 egg, beaten
     1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
     1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
     1 cup coconut

Melt butter, sugar, and cocoa in top of double boiler.  Add egg and stir to cook and thicken.  Remove from heat.  Stir in crumbs, almonds, and coconut.  Press firmly into ungreased 8x8-inch pan.

Second Layer:

     1/2 cup unsalted butter
     2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons cream
     2 tablespoons vanilla custard powder
     2 cups confectioners' sugar

Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and confectioners' sugar.  Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.

Top Layer:

     4 1-ounce squares semi-sweet chocolate
     2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Melt chocolate and butter over low heat.  Cool slightly and pour over second layer.

Chill in refrigerator.

You can find the original version of this recipe here.

     *Custard powder was created in Birmingham (a city in England, UK) by Alfred Bird in 1837, because his wife was allergic to eggs, the key ingredient used to thicken traditional custard.  The product is a cornstarch-based powder which thickens to form a custard-like sauce when mixed with milk and heated.

source:  Wikipedia

You can make your own custard powder or can find substitutes for custard powder.  Here is a source I came across with information and directions for replacing custard powder.

I ordered Bird's Custard Powder from Amazon.

It shipped from the United Kingdom.

The Nanaimo Bar tastes delightful...and unlike anything I've tasted before!

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Program

In December every year, our chapel has a Sunday School Christmas Program. The children wear costumes and learn songs and their parts for the performance. This year's program was held last night.

The play was titled The Christmas Quilt.

T played the part of Noah.  He was in Act 1:  Prophecies about a Promise,
Scene 4:  Back to the Quilt

(Grandma and children on left side of stage; Noah on right side of stage, darkened)

     This was the first prophecy foretelling Christ's birth...and there are hundreds more prophecies about His life, death, and resurrection, along with reminders of why He had to come.

Emma:  (standing by the quilt, looking at the second block)
     I know what this one is!  That's Noah!

Lucy:  (getting up to stand beside her sister)
     Yes!  It's Noah, with the rainbow!  Is that about Jesus, too?

     There isn't a promise about Christ's birth in that story, but there is an important word that is linked to the meaning of what salvation is all about.  It is the first time this wonderful word is mentioned in the Bible.  Jason, can you get the Bible that's on that table and find Genesis 6:8?

(Jason does as asked, opens Bible to find verse)

Jason:  (reading from the Bible)

     Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

     GRACE  that's the word!  Right, Grandma?

     Isn't that a wonderful word?  Grace:  unmerited gift of God.  We are saved by His grace, not by our good works, but by accepting His Son as our Savior.  The covenant God made with Noah had to do with not bringing a flood again to kill all humankind.  But, it is also a promise of a new beginning, a new birth....

(Lights dim over home group; spotlight is on Noah, noises of animals in background...
elephant, jungle sounds)

(building an altar)

Noah:  (putting stuffed animal on altar)

Narrator 1:
     Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and he sacrificed a burnt offering on it.

(bowing his head)

Narrator 1:
     The Lord smelled the aroma and was pleased.  Then God said to Noah:

(Noah looks up, as if hearing voice of God...then looks at rainbow)

     I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you, every living creature on earth.  Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.  This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come:  I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.  Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.

(Scene darkens)

Finished with his part!

At the end of the play, all of the children came up on stage and sang Silent Night.

Next came the photo opportunity for all of the parents!

Afterward, T was all smiles that the program was over!  ;o)

He gave his lamb some *love* for playing its part so well.

T's grandparents came from out-of-state to watch the Christmas program. They were so proud of him (as were we) for doing such a terrific job!  :)

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Friday, December 12, 2014


I made Panforte today.

     Panforte is a traditional Italian dessert containing fruits and nuts, resembling a fruitcake.  Literally, panforte means "strong bread" which refers to the spicy flavor.  A small wedge usually is served with coffee or a dessert wine after a meal; although, some Italians enjoy it with their coffee at breakfast.

     The city of Siena is regarded as the Panforte capital of Italy.  Documents from 1205 show that Panforte was paid to the monks and nuns of a local monastery as a tax or tithe which was due on February 7th that year.  There are references to the Crusaders carrying Panforte with them on their quests, and to the use of Panforte in surviving sieges because of the confection's durability.*

Here is the recipe I used:


3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts, toasted
1 cup coarsely chopped almonds, toasted
1/2 cup candied orange peel
1/2 cup candied lemon peel
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup honey

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Cut parchment paper to line an 8-inch tart pan that has a removable side.  Butter the parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate in a double-boiler, and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, spices, nuts, and candied fruits.

In a saucepan, stir together the sugar and honey.  Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.  Continue to boil the mixture over medium heat, without stirring, until the temperature reaches 240 degrees F.  (Use a candy thermometer to check the temperature.)

Remove from the heat source and stir the mixture and the melted chocolate into the dry ingredients.  It will stiffen once combined, so quickly transfer the dough to the prepared pan.  With damp hands or the back of a large spoon, press the dough in the pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the surface has fine blisters.  Remove from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack to cool slightly.  Remove the side of the pan and generously dust the top with confectioners' sugar while the Panforte is warm.

Once it has cooled completely, tightly wrap the Panforte in plastic wrap and store in a cool, dry place.  When wrapped well, the Panforte will keep for several months.

Serve the Panforte in small wedges; it is quite rich!

Note that for this recipe I used the Candied Orange Peel and the Candied Lemon Peel I made!  :)

The original version of this recipe came from a free Christmas cookbook, Figgy Pudding, Stollen and Tamales, from Knowledge Quest.

*source:  Wikipedia

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Tuesday, December 9, 2014


     Lebkuchen is a German Christmas treat, somewhat resembling gingerbread.  Lebkuchen often is baked on a thin wafer base and sometimes is formed into all shapes and sizes; although, round is the most common shape.  Traditionally, the cookies are quite large, sometimes measuring 4 1/2 inches in diameter.

     Lebkuchen Hearts are inscribed with icing and are available at many German markets.

     Lebkuchen crafted into fancy shapes sometimes is used as Christmas decorations.

     Lebkuchen ranges in taste from spicy to sweet.  There are many regional variations of Lebkuchen; however, the ingredients usually include honey, spices (such as allspice, aniseed, cardamom, cloves, coriander, and ginger), nuts (including almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts), and candied fruits.  Typically, it is glazed or covered with very dark chocolate.

     Lebkuchen came to Aachen, Germany from Belgium in the 13th century, where it was baked in Franconian Monasteries.  Lebkuchen bakers were recorded as early as 1296 in Ulm, and 1395 in Nuremberg.

     The seasonings needed to bake Lebkuchen were not available locally and had to be imported.  Because of this, Lebkuchen grew in popularity mainly in larger cities such as Ulm, Nuremberg, Cologne, and Munich that were situated on trade routes from the Orient.

     In 1643, Nuremberg created the "League of Lebkuchen-Bakers."  In 1645, the league created strict guidelines that commercial bakers had to follow in order to sell their Lebkuchen.

     N├╝rnberger Lebkuchen is the most well-known worldwide.  This Lebkuchen from Nuremberg is baked on a thin wafer and is known for its light, soft texture.

I baked Lebkuchen today.

Here is the recipe I used:


1 cup honey
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
4 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon allspice
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
1/4 cup finely chopped candied orange peel
1/4 cup finely chopped candied lemon peel
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons milk
32 whole blanched almonds, toasted
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat honey and brown sugar over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves and mixture is thin.  Transfer mixture to a large bowl.  Add egg and
1 tablespoon lemon juice; mix well.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and allspice.  Add to wet ingredients 1/2 cup at a time; mix well after each addition.

Combine raisins, chopped almonds, candied peels, and lemon zest.  Add to dough mixture, and stir until all ingredients are combined.

Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Line two 9-inch square pans with heavy-duty aluminum foil.  Butter foil in pans. Divide dough in half; press evenly into pans.  Brush surface with milk.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.

While warm, score each pan into 16 squares; press a whole almond into the center of each square.  Combine powdered sugar, vanilla, and remaining
3 tablespoons lemon juice; brush evenly over bars.

Let cool completely before cutting.  Store in tightly covered tin.  Do not store in plastic bags.

Yield:  32 bars

Note that for this recipe I used the Candied Orange Peel and the Candied Lemon Peel I made!  :)

You can find the original version of this recipe here.

     German Food Guide
     A Cookie for Every Country

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Ornament Lab

This afternoon, T attended an ornament lab...where he had the opportunity to make an ornament, dress up as a shepherd, and listen to an author read a Christmas book she wrote.

Eileen M. Berry read her book, Benjamin's Sling.

It is the story of the nativity through the eyes of a shepherd boy.

Afterward, T was given a copy of the book, personalized and signed by the author!

The store was decorated festively.

This year, the attendees were given a choice of three ornaments to make:

a star

the holy family

a lamb

Without hesitation, T chose to make the lamb.  This is the sample ornament.

Here is T, hard at work.

wrapping the yarn

still wrapping the yarn

getting a little carried away
with wrapping the yarn

T did a terrific job making his lamb ornament.

He was happy with his handiwork...although, it is a little difficult to tell by his expression!

He also dressed up as a shepherd boy.

This is the third year T has attended the ornament lab.  It seems to get better every year!  I so appreciate the time and effort that goes into creating what becomes a memorable experience for T.

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