Summer Pepper Garnishes

Summer Pepper Garnishes

Aspics and jelly salads used to be very popular, especially in the summer. Not the craze any more, here is an old trick good cooks used to use many years ago, and your guests will be pleased at the effort.

  • Prepare some perfect, colourful bell peppers and remove the heads, seeds and pith. Stand them upright like cups. If they look tipsy, carefully cut the bottoms so there are no holes in the bottom but they stand level.
  • Take some flavoured jelly powders in the same colours, and make up just enough for the peppers you have, using a little less water because you want a slightly firmer result.
  • To each jelly add 1/2 – 1 t. Horseradish.
  • Mix the colours up; that is, use orange for green peppers, green jelly for yellow peppers, yellow for red peppers, and red for orange peppers.
  • Fill the peppers accordingly and put them on a tray to chill in the fridge for at least four hours.
  • When firm, just before serving, slice them and arrange colourful slices on each plate.

Birthday Cake & Icing

Old-Fashioned Birthday Cake

1 c. Butter
2 c. Sugar, extra fine or fruit sugar – not powdered
3 Eggs
1 c. Milk
2 t. White vanilla
3 c. Flour (if using a gluten free blend, mix in 1/4 t. Xanthan gum and 1 t. unflavoured gelatin)
1 T. Baking powder
1/2 t. Salt

  • Mix dry ingredients in a separate bowl.
  • Cream the butter and sugar in a warm bowl until sugar is dissolved.
  • Beat in eggs one at a time.
  • Add vanilla
  • Add 1/2 cup of flour with 1/3 cup milk and beat until smooth. Continue until all are gone.
  • Pour into 2 prepared pans, or one 13″ x 8″ pan.
  • Bake at 350 degrees until sides pull away from the pan and the top bounces back when tapped, 30 to 40 minutes.


For a whiter cake, put the cake into the oven while cold with a pie pan half full of water on the bottom rack. Bake at 325 degrees.

For cherry cake, add 1 cup of chopped Maraschino cherries, 2 T. of the juice, and 1/2 t. Almond extract.

For coconut cake, add 1 c. of unsweetened coconut.

For butter pecan cake (my grandson, Koen’s, favourite), use brown sugar and add 3/4 cup of crushed pecans.

For summer fruit cake, mix in 1/2 cup each of chopped dried fruit, blanched almonds, and coconut.

For blueberry scones, add 1 cup of blueberries at the end, and bake in a prepared jelly roll pan for about 20 minutes. Serve with butter.

Old-Fashioned Bakery Icing

4 T. Butter, soft
4 T. Shortening
1/8 t. Salt
3 c. Powdered sugar
2-4 T. Cream
2 t. White Vanilla

  • Beat the butter with the shortening, and mix the vanilla with the cream.
  • Add the icing sugar to the butter mixture a little at a time while beating.
  • Drizzle in the cream as needed until you have a light, fluffy icing.

Any leftovers can be spread onto plain round cookies or graham crackers for a treat (as if).


For chocolate frosting, add 3 oz. of melted bittersweet chocolate to the butter and shortening, and replace 1 t. vanilla with rum or almond extract.

For coffee icing, dissolve 1 t. instant coffee in the cream.

Fun With Vodka

To Make White Vanilla

Into a Mickey of vodka (2 cups) add three vanilla beans which you have slashed through. In about 2 weeks you can begin using your vanilla. This will save you money and won’t turn your icing brown. Plus you won’t have any propylene glycol in your vanilla. When you get down to the dregs eventually, open up the now-preserved beans and scoop out the seeds for making vanilla ice cream.

To Make Non-Stick Pan Coating

Pour a mickey (2 cups) of vodka into a blender, then add two heaping tablespoons of liquid lecithin without letting it touch the sides of the blender jar (or it will take forever to blend). When the lecithin is completely dissolved, funnel it back into the Mickey and label it clearly; otherwise there will be unpleasant surprises at your house.

To use, fold a piece of paper towel or napkin and wipe your pan with this solution. You will save a lot of money and avoid preservatives.

Jillian’s Hash Brown Casserole

Jillian is a living saint, having spent her life fostering some of the most difficult children having to be protected by the Children’s Aid Society of Ontario. Dedicated to her church family as well, she found time to make this tasty dish regardless of the number of children underfoot!

2 lb. frozen hash browns, thawed*
1 c. sour cream
1 onion, grated
2 c. cheddar, grated
(1/2 c. bell, pepper, chopped)

Mix together, pour into a buttered casserole, and bake in a medium oven for 30 minutes.

An alternative approach is to double the sour cream and cheese if you really want to be lavish, but use 8 cooked potatoes* peeled and cubed. And you can use cream cheese in place of some of the cheddar.

Potato Head

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cookies

These are really, REALLY good. Yeah. Really good.

2 c. GF cake & pastry flour (or 1-1/2 c. white rice flour + 1/2 c. corn starch)
1/2 c. cocoa (Dutch-processed is good)
2-1/4 t. sifted baking powder
1/2 t. fine salt (not coarse Himalyan, if you please)
1/2 t. Xanthan gum
1/2 c. butter, soft
1 c. light brown sugar (fine)
2 eggs
1/2 t. Almond or Rum extract
1/2 t. Vanilla extract

Sift the dry ingredients together in a smaller mixing bowl. In a larger bowl, cream the butter and sugar, then beat in the eggs and extracts. Mix in the dry ingredients until you have  a lovely cookie dough.

  • For refrigerator-type cookies, roll into a log, wrap in plastic, and let chill 20 minutes before slicing and baking.
  • Or, roll them in 1″ balls and, dent them with your thumb, and stick a sweetened cranberry or half a marachino cherry in the dent.
  • Or, flatten the balls and dunk in fruit sugar (superfine) mixed with some powdered sugar before baking for a crackled type of cookie.

And if you haven’t nibbled all the dough gone, bake these little darlings at 325 degrees for 10 minutes.

Then hide them in a air-tight tin.







My Cabbage Roll Soup

Crazy delicious, I couldn’t find the recipe I saw so I just put my pot on the heat and started adding:

3 T. Extra-virgin olive oil
1 t. fresh parsley
1 medium red onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic
1/4 head of cabbage, diced
1 tin crushed tomatoes
1 box chicken broth
3 smoked Bratwurst sausages, cut up
1/2 c. uncooked Basmati rice
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. black pepper
3/4 t. caraway seed
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. thyme
1/4 t. black pepper
1/2 t. caraway seed
2 T. Tahini

Every time I added something, I just stirred it and went on to the next ingredient. After it came to a low boil, I just covered it and turned down the heat. The end result took 90 minutes, but I have to admit I cheated and had a bowl after 40…then a second tiny bowl 15 minutes later. With a dollop of sour cream in the first one. The second one didn’t need it.

It smelled so good I took a selfie before I ate it…something I generally do not do!

And if you are wondering why the Tahini, it’s because I’ve been making a Moroccan tomato soup for years that calls for peanut butter (likely because Tahini was not generally available back then, but it is delicious non-the-less). You don’t really taste it as such, but it does something amazing to the flavour and texture of the soup. Try it…you will probably be amazed at how good it makes this soup.




Chantal’s Broccoli & Rice

¼ c. butter/coconut oil
1 onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t. thyme
1 T. flour/corn starch
1 c. rice/quinoa
1-1/2 c. chicken/vegetable broth
1 c. broccoli
1 c. milk/nut milk
¼ c. Parmesan*
salt & pepper to taste

Sauté butter, onion and garlic with salt and pepper. Mix in thyme, flour and rice. Add broccoli, then liquids. Stir in Parmesan. Cover and let cook over low heat until rice is cooked. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with more Parmesan, if you like, and serve.

*Vegans can replace the Parmesan with:

1/4 c. yellow nutritional yeast flakes
2 T. lemon juice
2 t. pimento / red pepper puree.