Christmas recipes from the farm…

I often get asked if Canada is very different from the US or Colorado where I grew up.

This can be a loaded question depending on who wants to know right! There are so many subtle differences that I have grown to understand and love over the years. One of the interesting differences are the church pot lucks or evening events.

Now I know many of you are from the city, maybe you attend a church that hasn’t had a “pot luck” in about a hundred years! But out here in the “field” the “pot luck” is alive and well and I would say at our church exceptionally well. I love that about here. Some would say its old school but really its community, its love. Whether it’s a wedding shower, graduation or just the usual goodies after church for “lunch” its good. It characterizes our church and many in our denomination across the country.

This recipe is SO Canadian and I thought I would pass it along as you would find this at any decent church pot luck, band concert, graduation, wedding… Well you get the point!

This particular recipe is from the Farmer’s grandmother. She always made them at Christmas time and even sent them to Ecuador one year when the family gathered there. What did I tell you, Canadians are passionate about these little “squares” as they so fondly referrer to them!

So from our family to yours maybe you just might want to have a little ethnic food on the table at your next Christmas party! And a couple more favorites for a family night or party!

Virginia’s Heavenly Nanaimo Bars

Bottom Layer

Butter or Margarine ½ c.
Sugar ½ C.
Cocoa 10 Tbsp.
Eggs, beaten 2
Graham Cracker Crumbs 3 ½ C.
Fine coconut 1 ½ C.
Chopped Walnuts 1 C.

Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler or heavy saucepan. Add beaten egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press firmly into ungreased 9×13 pan.

Second Layer

Butter or Margarine 1 C.
Cream 6 Tbsp.
Vanilla Custard Powder (Bird’s eye) 4 Tbsp.
Icing sugar 4 C.

Cream butter, milk, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in color and fluffy. Spread over bottom layer.

Third Layer

Semisweet chocolate chips 1 1/3C. OR 8 square’s semi-sweet chocolate
Butter or Margarine 4 Tbsp.

Melt chips or Chocolate squares and butter over low heat. Cool. When cool but still runny, spread over second layer.

Chill in the fridge. Store in the fridge or cut into squares and freeze.

Pecan Crusted Artichoke and cheese dip
Thank you Christina (My college friend and great cook! For this AMAZING recipe)

4 Tbsp butter divided
1 med. Onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
1- 10 oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, well drained
1- 13 3/4 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1- 8oz package cream cheese softened cut into ½” cubes
½ cup hellmans real mayo
¾ cup sargento or whatever shredded Parmesan cheese
2 cups 4 cheese country casserole blend I just use whatever blend I can find in the already shredded bags.

2/3 cup chopped pecans
½ cup herb seasoning bag stuffing

Melt 3 Tbsp butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook three min. Add spinach and cook 3 min. Stirring frequently. Remove from heat, add artichoke hearts and next four ingredients to spinach mixture, stir until well blended. Transfer to a greased 1 ½ qt. Casserole. (I use a nice bowl even but it has to be oven proof.) Melt remaining 1 Tbsp butter in small skillet add pecans and stuffing and toss until blended and browned a bit. Set aside. Bake cheese mixture at 350 for 20 min stir. Top with pecan mixture and bake for 15 more min or until just browned. Serve with French bread, crackers, veggies or whatever is yummy! ☺

Grammy Jenell’s lemon loaf

1/3 c melted shortening
1 c. white sugar
2 eggs

Sift and add:
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

1/2 c. milk
1 Tbsp. lemon peel
1Tbsp. lemon juice (my addition)

3Tbsp poppy seeds (I had a bunch to use up! this is optional)

Bake in a slow oven 325 degrees for 70 minutes. Then take 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 1/4 c. sugar. Mix and spread over the loaf and let set for 10 minutes before taking out of pan. (I poke holes into the top of the loaf with a toothpick)

For an added Christmas flare I added a bag of fresh cranberries. It looks SO pretty when its baked up. Good enough to give as a special Christmas gift.

I wish I could give each of you one to enjoy with your friends and family they are just so pretty all packaged up!

One more favorite this season…. A friend got me onto Davidstea. It is a fun shop where you can pause for a moment to smell, taste and be transported to fireside cups of tea with your favorite people! The girls and I recently had a fun half hour and came away with Sleigh Ride! What a beautiful, naturally sweet Christmas tea. If you come across some your day may just be a little more merrier!


Merry Christmas,



Tamale Pie

This is another one of my favorite dinner recipes (I love anything with black beans, corn and avocado!). It is healthy and if needed can easily be made gluten-free. Although I love this recipe as is (no meat) I have added cooked, chopped chicken— and that was also delicious.

{Adapted from The Moosewood Cookbook}

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onions (or 1 small onion chopped)
3 tablespoons minced garlic
1/2 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1-2 tablespoons water
1 ½ cups peeled and diced carrots
1  red or green bell pepper, diced
2 cups diced zucchini
1 (4 oz) can diced green chiles
1 (15 oz) can crushed tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can black beans, drained
½ cup frozen corn kernels
salt and pepper to taste

4 ounces grated cheddar cheese (optional)
¾ cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon unbleached white flour (use GF if needed)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 egg whites, beaten
½ cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons canola oil

minced scallions
chopped fresh cilantro
sliced avocado

Warm olive oil in heavy or nonstick saucepan. Add onions and garlic, cover, and cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes. Add cumin, coriander, oregano, a bit of water to prevent sticking, and carrots. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Add bell peppers, zucchini, and chiles, cover and cook another 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, beans and corn, cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper (I use about ½ teaspoon-1 teaspoon of salt and ⅛-¼ teaspoon pepper).
Preheat oven to 400°.

Prepare a 2 ½ quart casserole dish with cooking spray. Spread the vegetable-bean mixture in the dish. If you are using cheese, sprinkle it evenly over the top.

In a mixing bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder and soda, egg whites, buttermilk and oil. Whisk together to mix. Pour the batter evenly over the vegetable mixture. Bake 30-35 minutes, until the top is golden.

Garnish with scallions, cilantro and avocado.

Enjoy! :-)

Fresh Cranberry Sauce

I never liked cranberry sauce until I tried the real deal– from fresh cranberries. The canned stuff just isn’t worth eating, in my humble opinion!

This cranberry sauce is delicious– the perfect balance of sweet and tart, with no sugar added. It is the recipe I make to accompany our Thanksgiving dinner every year. What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving recipes? I’d love to hear in the comment section!

Apricot Cranberry Sauce

1/2 lb. fresh cranberries
3/4 cup no sugar added/all fruit apricot jam (this is NOT Splenda sweetened jam, it is fruit juice sweetened–  I do not recommend artificial sweeteners as they are known to be dangerous to your health)
2 Tablespoons honey
2 oranges slices, halved
2 cinnamon sticks
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (can toast on cookie sheet for 8 minutes in 350° oven)

Place all ingredients except walnuts in a medium saucepan. Press orange slices with the back of a spoon to release juices and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Let cool, then remove orange slices and cinnamon sticks. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with walnuts.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups


Photo credit: Cranberries

Lentil Vegetable Soup

I remember when I first made this, the girls weren’t too excited to try lentils. But then I found alphabet noodles and they were suddenly thrilled to eat it. Now it is the most requested meal around here, whether it’s with regular old noodles or the special alphabet kind. This is our VERY favorite soup. All five of us love it  (it’s even been my toddler’s favorite ever since he started eating solids).

{Adapted from Giada’s recipe on the Food Network)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed

1 small onion, finely chopped

3 organic carrots, peeled and chopped

3 organic celery stalks, chopped

1 can organic diced tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 teaspoon thyme leaves (can do a more if you love it or want to make the most of thyme’s antimicrobial and nutritional qualities)

2 cups lentils

48 oz box organic vegetable broth

48 oz box organic chicken broth

1 cup noodles, cooked in salted water (we like De Boles organic whole wheat alphabet noodles)

Asiago cheese to top

In a soup pot over medium heat, cook onion, garlic, celery and carrots in olive oil, stirring often until vegetables start to become soft (5 minutes?). Add tomatoes and lentils and stir to incorporate. Add remaining ingredients (except cheese and noodles) and bring to a boil. Then turn down to simmer, covered, for about an hour until lentils are cooked. While the soup is cooking, cook your noodles separately so that they don’t absorb all of the soup broth. Add to soup when done. Top with cheese and more pepper if desired.



“Dear Me”

Emily Freeman has written a new book called Graceful. It is written for younger women and although I have not read it, I have read and highly recommend her first book, Grace for the Good Girl.

A few weeks back she did an interesting thing and invited bloggers to write a “Dear Me” letter to their 16,17, 18+-year-old selves. As I am slow to the take, AKA life is too full and I can only do what I can do, I have finally finished my Dear Me. A part of me has a soft place for young women at this place in their story. You can read many more Dear Me’s at Emily’s blog Chatting at the Sky. If you have a woman in your life that is in this stage of her life might you consider this book as a gift… And may I suggest that you take a few moments this week to write your own Dear Me in the quiet of your heart. It’s brilliant to see God’s goodness…

Dear Me,

You’re in Junior High and the friend thing seems to be going OK. You know there is something different about the fact that you have friends from all of the different groups but you don’t seem to mind and neither do they.

You’re beginning to feel the burden of being the white elephant in your family. The one who has the problem. The issue that will need to be addressed—  and yet no one is very sure how to deal with it, the least of which you.

I know you can’t remember a time when the weight wasn’t a part of your story. And it just kept coming and it just kept riding you like a large monkey on your back.

I know it was hard for you to understand how to cope with this part of you that wasn’t “acceptable”. Maybe this is the place where your perceptions and reality began to become a tangled mess and you never really knew how to view your body or the way other’s viewed your body.

It will be a long journey to see the reality, because sometimes it’s just easier to believe what you want to. The road to reality won’t be easy to find and God will use this time to strengthen you in other areas so that you will not be crushed under the weight of it.

You somehow have a deep understanding of how much God loves you, your parents make sure of this and it is this grace of His in your life that will get you through. Hold on to this for dear life. He absolutely loves you.

You will one day see how easy it is to be fooled by your mind and how you are your worst enemy but thankfully you will have amazing people who see past the outside, who see what God planted in you to be cultivated. They will encourage you and point you to paths and doors that God lays before you and somehow you will have the faith and courage to walk through them.

You may not be able to see it now, but God’s hand is always upon you and although you are not clear about many things, and very self focused, He will continue to show His sovereignty in your life.

Part of you can’t bear to think about all the reasons you are not loveable and so you don’t but somewhere deep down you know that God created you for something full and it wasn’t meant to be your belly. He won’t break His promise.

You won’t know for a long time how your strengths will be your weaknesses or how when God talks about wanting a relationship with you He means a two-way, open, honest, life changing relationship.

You will squander years chasing what you think makes you happy and part of you will be happy, but only because you continue to ignore and skew the monkey on your back and it will continue to grow as your body continues to grow.

Despite all of this, God will use those “squandered” years to prepare you for the glorious freedom that He longs for you one day.

Time will pass and your struggle with food will become all-consuming and you will not be yourself and you will begin to cry out to God in a new way, a desperate plea for things to be different, better, skinny, anything… But He will need you to see how broken you have become because of the years you altered the reality in your mind and the unwillingness to let go of the things you have made more important than Him.

























Thankfully you know He is a God of hope and He continues to give.

He gives you the gift of a loving husband and children. You long to do so right by these gifts and you realize you are not equipped to steward them well and that reality stares you in the face begging for an answer.

God will ask you to fight. Fight for what you really want out of life, fight for a shot at doing this well because you are beginning to see how quickly the hour-glass empties and you long to redeem that which has been lost.

He will answer your pleas and this will be the beginning of so many answered prayers and dreams but it will come at great sacrifice.

He will ask you to give up all that is not real in your head; all of the comforts that you turn to instead of Him.

You know that it will be the fight of your life but you would rather take a shot at wholeness than live with this miserable monkey that has crushed you to your knees.

When God hands you the ticket out, take it with all that you are and any amount of faith that you still have. And fight with all that is in you, because even though you have no idea how to do it, He will show you that it never was about you doing it. That it was always about you surrendering and letting go.

So let go of the things you think you need— the control that you don’t even know you are holding onto, so that He can be the one to make you whole.

You mustn’t give up for you’re on the cusp of the freedom you have longed for, the number on the clothing tag you thought never possible, the beginnings of the life you always wanted.

The true reality will be nothing you could have imagined—  but then again didn’t He say He would never break His promises



Quick and Tasty Tortilla Soup

Colorado weather is so strange. The kids were running around our yard in swimsuits and playing with the hoses earlier this week, and today it is COLD and snow is forecasted for the weekend. I love the addition of soups to our dinner menu as the weather turns chilly. Here is an easy tortilla soup recipe. I usually serve it with a salad and a muffin or blueberry cornbread. Make sure to add the fresh ingredients (cilantro, avocado, green onion) or a lot of flavor will be lost.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 boneless skinless chicken breast halves, cut into small pieces and seasoned with salt and pepper
1 (32 oz) box organic chicken broth
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp fresh lime juice
1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chilies
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

crushed tortilla chips (we like blue corn chips)
sliced avocado

shredded Monterey jack cheese
chopped green onions

In a medium stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic with seasoned chicken until chicken is about cooked. Add remaining ingredients (minus the garnish items), bring to a boil then turn down and simmer 20 minutes. Serve and enjoy! Don’t forget the fixings!


Pasta With Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Asparagus and Ricotta Salata

We love this fresh pasta dish! We are so lucky to have such wonderful neighbors who live behind us— our kids are all the same ages and are the best of friends. They had us over for dinner one night and made this dish for us. Ever since then it’s been on my regular dinner rotation. It is quick, easy and light; I love the fresh ingredients.

You’ll need:

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed or finely chopped

2 pint size containers of grape tomatoes, take about a third of them and cut in half

1  8-ounce container of mushrooms, gently rubbed clean and sliced

1 bunch of asparagus— remove and discard tough portion on bottoms and slice remaining stalks into 1½-2 inch long pieces (plus a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt)

1 lb. box of penne pasta

1 block of Ricotta Salata cheese (this is different from the soft Ricotta that comes in a plastic container).

1 ½ cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (the Italian in me feels the need to stress that good Parmesan is very important! No Kraft here ladies!)

Salt and crushed red pepper flakes, to taste.


All at once:

  • Bring salted water to a boil. Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain (but do not {ever} rinse the noodles in cold water… take it from a true Italian!)
  • Preheat the oven to 400°. Place asparagus on a cookie sheet (I line mine with parchment paper for easy clean-up). Drizzle asparagus with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast in oven for 10 minutes. (As a side note, this makes a very easy and delicious side dish that we make often.)
  • Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic (and red pepper flakes if you want) and stir and saute for a minute. Turn heat down if needed so that garlic doesn’t burn. Add all tomatoes and the sliced mushrooms and stir. Salt to taste (I add somewhere around 3/4 tsp). Continue to cook over medium/medium-high heat, stirring often, until the whole tomatoes are about to pop and mushrooms are done.
While this is all cooking, chop Ricotta into small bite size pieces and put into a large serving bowl. As the asparagus and noodles finish cooking, add them to the bowl. Top with tomato/mushroom sauce and throw in the Parmigiano. Stir it all up well until all of the Parmigiano melts and everything is mixed together. Top with chopped fresh basil if you like it. Serve it up while it is hot. This makes enough for our family (2 adults/2 ½ kids) for two nights… or it will serve two families if you have a salad or fresh fruit on the side.





Peach Tart

Peaches are in season and we love to stock up at the Farmer’s Market. Here is an easy dessert (perfect for your Labor Day dinner!) that will please a crowd:

Peach Tart

½ cup softened, unsalted butter (plus a bit more to grease pan)

Juice from half a lemon, divided

1 lb peaches~ or approximately 3 medium peaches or 2 large peaches (or you can use pears or plums), sliced into ½ inch thick pieces

1 cup flour

1 tsp baking powder

⅛ tsp salt

1 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

½ tsp cinnamon


Grease a 9-inch spring-form pan.

Squeeze half the lemon juice over the peaches.

In a small mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt (whisk to combine).

Use a mixer on medium speed to cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs— one at a time. Add vanilla. Turn mixer to low speed and add flour mixture, mixing gently until just combined. Spread batter in pan.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Arrange peaches (in tight concentric circles for a fancy touch) on top of dough. Squeeze remaining lemon juice evenly over peaches.

In a small bowl, combine 1 Tbsp sugar with cinnamon. Sprinkle over peaches.

Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until edges are golden and center is set.

Cool tart in pan for 10 minutes. Run a sharp knife around edge and remove sides of pan. Cut and serve.





Best Banana Muffins EVER!

Today was a victory for this mama!

I made Barley Banana Muffins from a recipe that a friend gave me. The victory is that all three of my children loved the muffins, which you think wouldn’t be hard with muffins for goodness sake BUT… I have one that is quite particular!

Hopefully this is a timely post for all you mama’s as you are anticipating the school lunches that must be made each day or the home lunches and snacks that seem to take such precious time away from your day! The recipe itself says “Great to pack in lunches or for breakfast on the run!”

In our neck of the woods muffins are a staple in most of my friends homes and I love getting new recipes. So from one friend to another I hope you enjoy!

Barley Banana Muffins

from Prairie Fresh Flax Ltd.

1 cup            Canola oil

1 1/2 cups    granulated sugar

4                    eggs

5-6                very ripe bananas

4 cups          Hamilton’s Barley Flour

2 tsp.            baking powder

2 tsp.            baking soda

1/2 tsp.        salt

1 cup            walnuts and/or chocolate chips (optional)


Easy and fast, one bowl method:

In a large bowl combine oil, sugar, and eggs and beat until smooth.

Add whole bananas and mash with the beaters then beat.

Measure and distribute over the top of the mixture, the barley flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Beat until combined.

Stir in the walnuts or chocolate chips. Scrape into 3 greased loaf pans OR 30 greased or paper-lined muffin tins. Bake loaves 50-60 min. at 350. Bake muffins 20-25 min. at 375. Let cool 10 min. before removing from pan.

Notes: I made these with a large bowl and a wire whisk. It worked great. I was always told that once you add the dry ingredients to the wet it’s best to not over mix at that point.  I chose to make half with chocolate chips and half without. Instead of mixing in the chocolate chips I just filled the tins half way, added a few chips and then put the rest of the batter over the chocolate chips; this way I wasn’t mixing any more than I needed to. I have heard they freeze well, perfect for something to pull out with a pot of soup for an easy dinner!




One of our Favorites: Pancakes (no buttermilk needed)

Pancakes have long been a favorite around here.


This recipe, from

Peter Rabbit’s Natural Foods Cookbook

by Arnold Dobrin, is our favorite.



    I have modified it a little to accommodate the Farmer. But they love it, even when I sneak in the whole wheat flour! This sweet book was given to me as a wedding present from a very dear caregiver and friend. It holds a special place in this house and I have made a number of the recipes for friends and family. They are simple and basic but easy to spice up and alter accordingly. Anyone who has a love for Beatrix Potter will love this sitting on their counter. Enjoy, from our Sunday to yours…



Samuel Whiskers’ Roly-Poly Pancakes (with my modifications)


1 cup unbleached white flour

1/4 cup whole-wheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp nutmeg (Little B’s favorite part)

1 egg

1 cup milk

2 TBS olive oil


Put the white flour, whole-wheat flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg into a mixing bowl and stir them lightly with a fork until they are throughly mixed.

Add the egg, milk, and oil to the dry mixture. Beat with a wire whisk until it’s smooth and creamy. ( I generally don’t have too many lumps like some recipes call for.)

Meanwhile heat the griddle. When it’s hot… (throw a bit of water on it and see if it sizzles! I don’t grease our griddle but do what you would normally do.)

Pour the batter on the griddle, leaving space between each pancake so they don’t run together. Unless your family is the type who like the colossal pancake with broken bits on it from a failed flip! To each his own I say!

When the pancakes are bubbly on top, I use my spatula and take a little peek to see if they are nice and golden. If I have been multitasking they might end up being the “dark” golden that is always a little disappointing when you’re the one waiting for a new one! But if you’re the good mom, relishing the moment and waiting for the FLIP,  they should be golden!

Flip to cook just a minute more. We aren’t much for the crunchy pancakes so I try not to let them sit on the griddle too long after the flip… again to each his own.

We love to serve ours with real maple syrup. We do live in Canada for goodness sake! (No Aunt Jemima taste buds here!)

On special occasion I’ll surprise them with whipped cream, it’s little B’s favorite. My kids like to dip their pancakes; works for me— no cutting, leaving me more time for my coffee!

I can generally feed 1 Farmer, 2 girls and a growing toddler with one batch.

Mom sticks to oatmeal! Hope you enjoy! Let me know how you all liked them.

Original recipe as follows:

3/4 cup unbleached flour

1/4 cup whole-wheat flour

1/4 cup corn meal

2 tsp baking powder

2 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 egg

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, or dab of butter, shortening, or margarine

We are linking up here today: