Tiffin Squares

Tiffin Squares

December 25: Christmas

‘Tis the season to see pretty plaid patterns as Christmas decorations, which are reminiscent of Scottish tartans. For many years, the English banned the Scots from wearing their cultural clothing (learn more about the “repeal of dress” here). Also, for four centuries, Christmas was banned in Scotland because Protestant rulers of the 16th century associated Christ’s mass with Catholicism. It was only in 1958 that Christmas became an official holiday in Scotland.

Now with the freedom to express themselves with plaid AND observe Christmas Day, the Scots have been very influential in their holiday celebrations with decorations and traditions.

As a Christmas dessert, we made a traditional Scottish treat called tiffin. The recipe originated in Troon, Scotland, in the 1900s, and is a chocolate cake-like confectionary commonly comprising of crushed digestive or rich tea biscuits (cookies), cocoa powder, golden syrup and dried fruit with a top layer of melted chocolate. Although it is considered a “cake”, tiffin does not require baking in the oven. Because the mixture is chilled in the refrigerator to set until hardened, tiffin is also known as fridge or icebox cake, chocolate concrete cake and no- bake chocolate biscuit cake.

Tiffin is very similar to the groom’s cake made for Prince William when he married Kate Middleton in 2011 (but the royal recipe contains eggs). Like the royal cake, tiffin is a treat that tastes rich and decadent but is very easy to make, especially for Christmas cookie exchanges and for Hogmanay next week.

Try tiffin and celebrate Christmas and be proud of plaid. Nollaig Chridheil (Merry Christmas in Scots Gaelic)!

Recipe

(Adapted from Rampant Scotland)

Ingredients

  • 1 package digestive biscuits
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 1-2 tablespoons raisins
  • 1-2 tablespoons glacé cherries, halved (optional)
  • 6 ounces good quality chocolate, melted

Directions

In a plastic bag, crush the biscuits into small crumbs. Set aside. In a saucepan over medium low heat, melt the butter with the cocoa powder and golden syrup and stir until smooth.

Tiffin Squares

Add the raisins and glacé cherries. Add the crushed biscuit pieces and mix to coat well. Line an 8×8-inch square pan with parchment or wax paper with a little overhang for the handles. Press the chocolate mixture into the pan until flat and even. Set aside.

Tiffin Squares

Pour melted chocolate over the top and smooth with a spatula. Refrigerate for at least an hour until firm. Lift the tiffin out of the pan using the paper handles. Slice into 36 squares.

Tiffin Squares

Notes

  • Because Christmas was banned for 400 years in Scotland, the Scots have celebrated Hogmanay (new year) in grander style. “Auld Lang Syne” is a popular and traditional Scottish song for the new year.
  • Search our blog for other Scottish and Christmas recipes.

Star Wars Cookies

Star Wars Cookies

December 18, 2015: Premiere of “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

May the Force be with you…and with your spirit! Fans are literally out in full force as the new movie in the third trilogy of the famous film/space saga, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, opens worldwide in theaters today (although some lucky fans got to see the movie earlier at the Hollywood/Los Angeles premiere). We had to reserve our tickets online a few weeks earlier to get good seats at the movie theater tonight!

In eager anticipation of the long-awaited Star Wars film, we made sugar cookies to share with co-workers and friends to observe the movie’s release date. What an excuse to use some of the cookie cutters that Highlander gifted Islander one year!

Star Wars cookie cutters

We have posted two simple recipes on our blog today: basic green Yoda sugar cookies and dark chocolate-cinnamon Darth Vader cookies. Even though these classic characters are part of the previous trilogies, enjoy these sweet treats for a multi-generational Star Wars celebration or for a unique holiday cookie exchange.

Recipes

For the Yoda Sugar Cookies

(Adapted from Williams-Sonoma)

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • green food coloring (we used Wilton “leaf green” food paste/gel coloring)

Directions

In a bowl, combine the flour and salt. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the egg. Add the vanilla.

Yoda Cookies

Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Mix until a dough is formed. Tint with green food coloring to the desired shade of “Yoda”. Roll the dough into a large ball, divide in thirds, cover and refrigerate until firm (about an hour).

Yoda Cookies

Roll out dough ¼-inch thick. Cut out shapes with Yoda cookie cutter. Place on a lightly greased baking pan. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to firm up the dough. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for five minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely and become crisp.

Yoda Cookies

For the Darth Vader Dark Chocolate-Cinnamon Cookies

(Adapted from Southern Living Incredible Cookies)

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder (we used Hershey’s Special Dark—for an intense color and “dark side” taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 ½ cups butter, softened
  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions

In a bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, salt and ground cinnamon. Set aside.

Darth Vader Cookies

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the powdered sugar. Beat in the eggs. Add the vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Mix until a sticky dough is formed.

Darth Vader Cookies

Roll the dough into a large ball, divide in half or thirds, cover and refrigerate until firm (about an hour). Roll out dough ¼-inch thick. Cut out shapes with Darth Vader cookie cutter. Place on a lightly greased baking pan. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to firm up the dough. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for five minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely and become crisp.

Darth Vader Cookies

Notes

  • Jedi mind tricks and tips: Roll out the dough between sheets of waxed paper and chill until ready to use. Keep the cut-out cookie dough very cold to retain its shape while baking in the oven. Dip cookie cutters in a little flour to prevent them from sticking to the dough.
  • We halved the Darth Vader cookie recipe for this post.
  • Search our blog for other Star Wars recipe ideas.

Maple-Glazed Ribs

Maple Glazed Ribs

December 17: National Maple Syrup Day

After visiting Highlander’s relatives in Canada, we always bring back foodstuffs so we can savor the flavors from our North American neighbors when we are back in the United States. Maple products are popular, like syrup, cookies and candies, following the iconic leaf on the nation’s flag.

We got a can of Canadian maple syrup that we typically put on pancakes. It was a lot of syrup for just the two of us so we decided to try a recipe for ribs that featured a maple glaze. We are used to the southern-style BBQ ribs with its saucy marinades. But maple-glazed ribs were a nice change and they are perfect for a picnic in the summer and, with a hint of jalapeno heat in this recipe, hearty and heart-warming to eat during the colder seasons when National Maple Syrup Day is scheduled.

Recipe

Adapted from Endless Vacation magazine (Spring 2012)

Ingredients

  • 1 rack of pork baby back ribs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ¾ cup maple syrup
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons ginger, grated
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 2 small limes, juiced

Directions

Line a lipped baking pan with foil to catch the drippings. Salt and pepper both sides of the ribs. Place meat side down. Make the maple glaze by mixing the maple syrup with garlic, ginger, japaleno and lime juice.

Maple Glazed Ribs

Brush the top and sides of the ribs with 1/3 of the glaze mixture. Cover the ribs with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 300 degrees F for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, carefully lift the foil and avoid escaping steam, turn the ribs over and brush another 1/3 of the glaze mixture on the meat side of the ribs. Cover again with foil and return to the oven to bake for another 30 minutes. Remove the ribs from the oven and discard the top foil. Turn up the oven’s heat to 375 degrees F. Baste with the remaining glaze, return the ribs to the oven and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven again and continue to baste, spooning the darker drippings onto the ribs to give them some color. Bake for 15-20 more minutes. Remove from the oven, slice the ribs, put them on a platter and spoon some of the glaze drippings on the meat. Serve hot.

Maple Glazed Ribs

Notes

  • There are some burnt bits of maple glaze drippings on the baking pan. Mix this caramelized gooey goodness with the thinner meat juices and brush on the ribs to give them some color.
  • Serve these ribs for a summery Canada Day picnic on July 1.
  • Try the recipe for maple-glazed chicken for National Maple Syrup Day.

Hemp Chocolate Candy Bar Brownies

Hemp Chocolate Candy Bar Brownies

December 8: National Brownie Day

We have blogged several times about brownies before. But this one is baked with a special ingredient—a chocolate candy bar! And it’s not just any bar—it has hemp seeds! Hemp is related to but is not the same as marijuana, although they both come from one of the varieties of their common cannabis plant. When baked into brownies, a few people automatically assume there is “pot” in it, which is illegal in some states. Nevertheless, we reassured our skeptical friends that they would probably only get high on sugar and not on “weed”! For National Brownie Day, bake some brownies with a special ingredient—a chocolate candy bar with or without hemp.

Recipe

(Adapted from Dave Lieberman of the Food Network)

Ingredients

  • ½ cup (1 stick butter) butter, melted, divided use
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 hemp chocolate candy bar, coarsely chopped

Directions

Prepare an 8×8-inch square baking pan that has been lined with foil with a little hanging over the edges (this will act as the “handles” to lift the cooled brownies from the pan). Grease the bottom and sides of the foil-lined pan with 2 tablespoons melted butter. With the remaining butter, combine it with the sugar in a mixing bowl.

Hemp Chocolate Candy Bar Brownies

Beat in the egg, water and vanilla. Next, add the salt, baking powder, cocoa powder and flour.

Hemp Chocolate Candy Bar Brownies

Fold in the chopped hemp chocolate candy bar pieces. Spread evenly into the prepared pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes or until the center is set and the top is shiny and slightly wrinkled. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Use the foil “handles” to lift the brownie out of the pan. Cut into squares and serve. Yield: 16 brownie pieces.

Hemp Chocolate Candy Bar Brownies

Notes

  • Thanks to Lisa L. for giving us the special ingredient for this recipe—the hemp chocolate candy bar. The hemp seeds added a nice occasional crunch to the fudgy-cake like texture in this brownie.
  • Substitute the hemp chocolate candy bar for a cup of another candy bar (like Snickers fun size or mini chocolate-peanut candy bars).
  • Search our blog for other brownie recipes.

Parkin Cake

Parkin Cake

November 5: Guy Fawkes Night/Bonfire Night

Remember, remember, the 5th of November

The Gunpowder Treason and plot;

I know of no reason why Gunpowder Treason

Should ever be forgot.

Treacle treat—give us something good to eat! Extend the Halloween and fall festivities with a Guy Fawkes mask and partake in eating a treacle treat at a bonfire. Treacle is British molasses and is an ingredient in bonfire toffee and Parkin cake—the traditional foods eaten on this night, which culminates in a spectacular fireworks show in many cities around the United Kingdom.

The movie, “V for Vendetta”, popularized sales of the Guy Fawkes mask, costumes and film memorabilia. We watched the movie to see actress Natalie Portman shave her head! And yes, the finale included fireworks. While the movie is forgettable for us, the Parkin cake is a memorable seasonal sweet.

So remember on the 5th of November, on Bonfire Night, bake a Parkin cake!

Recipe

(Adapted from Jane Lyons on HonestCooking.com)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 apple, peeled and diced
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 4 tablespoons treacle (molasses)
  • 4 tablespoons golden syrup (or corn syrup)
  • 6 tablespoons milk

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking powder, ground ginger and salt.

Parkin Cake

Grate the ginger piece. Peel and dice the apple. Add these to the flour mixture.

Parkin Cake

In a saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar, treacle and golden syrup. Mix the wet ingredients into the flour mixture until moist.

Parkin Cake

Stir in the milk. Pour into a parchment paper-lined 8×8-inch baking pan (make sure that there is a little overhang to make it easier to lift the cake out of the pan). Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 45-55 minutes, testing the cake for doneness with a toothpick. Remove from the oven and let stand for about five minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Slice into 16 squares.

Parkin Cake

Notes

  • Although Guy Fawkes Night had negative religious overtones in its early history, tolerance and multiculturalism in the United Kingdom have made this holiday focus more on fireworks and a fun fall evening. Learn more about the evolution of Guy Fawkes Night celebrations from political to commercial on https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guy_Fawkes_Night.
  • Parkin cake tastes better as it “ages”. So bake this ahead of Bonfire Night, store the cooled cake in an airtight container to let the flavors develop and enjoy up to a week later.
  • Search our blog for other recipes containing treacle (molasses).

Bandage Cookies

Bandage Cookies

October 31: Halloween

Gross out your guests with graham cracker bandage cookies. With only three ingredients—graham crackers and white and red frosting—these sweet treats are so quick to make for any last-minute ghoulish get-togethers. For an even more bloody good time, make these bandage cookies to go with our other Halloween recipes, such as ribs, fingers, eyeballs, earwax, brain, bones, apple smiles and more. Happy Halloween!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • Graham crackers
  • White tube frosting
  • Red gel tube icing

Directions

With a sharp knife, carefully separate the graham crackers into quarters. For each cracker strip, squeeze out a square of white frosting from the tube. Next, add a little “blood” on the center with the red gel tube icing. Serve on a bed of cheesecloth stained in red liquid food coloring.

Bandage Cookies

Notes

  • There are several variations for creating these creepy cookies. Wafer cookies or club crackers may be used instead of the graham crackers. Square-cut fondant pieces or white cheese spread may be used instead of the white frosting center. And strawberry jam or jelly may be used instead of the red gel tube icing.
  • For the bloody bandage background, randomly smudge red liquid food coloring on cheesecloth and let dry.
  • Search our blog for other Halloween recipes.

Moroccan Roast Chicken 

with Saffron and Rose Water

Morrocan Chicken

September:
National Chicken Month

At one of Islander’s culinary club monthly meetings, members were challenged to bring a dish made with edible flowers or floral essence. Some of the potluck items included lavender scones, lavender lemon bars, blueberry pie with rose petals and a salad with sunflower seeds. In addition to bringing Maui lavender-mint iced tea, Islander shared a Moroccan chicken dish made with saffron and rose water. Other ingredients in this recipe include honey, cinnamon, hazelnuts, lemon and ginger, making the medley of flavors an exotic yet delicious combination. No wonder it was the members’ favorite flower-themed food! Make Moroccan roast chicken and savor the floral flavors during National Chicken Month.

Recipe

(Adapted from Epicurious)

  • 1 large chicken, cut up into thighs, breasts, etc. (we used 12 chicken legs)
  • generous pinch of saffron
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger (we used freshly grated ginger)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
  • ¾ cup hazelnuts, unskinned and toasted
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons rose water (not extract or essence)
  • 2 stalks green onion, chopped (optional garnish)

Directions

In a large bowl, combine the saffron, chopped onion, olive oil, ginger, cinnamon, lemon juice, water, salt and pepper.

Moroccan Chicken

Add the chicken pieces and coat well. Arrange them in a large baking dish. Cover. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator. Remove from the refrigerator, uncover and bake in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F for 45 minutes or until the chicken is no longer pink inside.

Moroccan Chicken

Meanwhile, toast the hazelnuts by stirring them in a skillet over medium-low heat, being careful not to burn them. Let cool then coarsely chop them. Place the nuts in a small bowl. Mix with honey and rose water to make a thick glaze.

Moroccan Chicken

Remove the chicken from the oven and spread the glaze over each piece. Return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and spoon some of the pan juices over the chicken. Transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with chopped green onion. Serve hot with rice or couscous.

Moroccan Chicken

Notes

  • Thanks to Lisa L. for giving us a little jar of saffron as a souvenir from her visits to Spain and Morocco. Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice because it takes between 70,000-250,000 flowers to make just one. The stigmas of the flower must be individually and painstakingly handpicked when in full bloom during the autumn season before drying them.
  • Rose water is not the same as rose extract/essence. The latter is derived from floral oils and is sometimes steeped in alcohol that makes the flavor taste more concentrated. Rose water is lighter and is made by distilling rose petals in water.
  • Search our blog for more chicken recipes.
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