11 November


(Orange Greek Yogurt Cake)

November 9: National Greek Yogurt Day

There is a hilarious scene in one of our favorite movies, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, in which the bride and groom’s families meet for the very first time. The American groom’s mother presented a bundt cake to the Greek bride’s mother to be served after dinner as a dessert (and decorated with a flower pot in the middle of the “cake with a hole in it”).

Perhaps the Greek mother would have found it easier to pronounce yiaourtopita than bundt. And it is easier for us non-Greeks to call the following recipe Orange Greek Yogurt Cake (although lemons could be substituted). It could be baked in a loaf or round pan, but as a nod to the movie we baked the cake in a mini bundt pan.

This Orange Greek Yogurt Cake is terrific for teatime and also on National Greek Yogurt Day.


(Adapted from Voskos)


  • 2 oranges, zested and juiced (about ¼ cup liquid)
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla or orange extract
  • 1 ½ cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup canola or vegetable oil


Wash and dry the oranges. Zest the rind and squeeze the juice. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the Greek yogurt with sugar, egg, and juice.

Add the zest extract. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually mix this in to the wet ingredients. Add the oil and mix into a smooth batter.

Pour the batter in a well-greased mini bundt pan, loaf pan or round cake pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes (mini bundts) and 30-45 minutes for the loaf or round cake pan, testing for doneness. Remove from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with a cup of tea (optional).


  • As an intermarried couple ourselves, of course we loved the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”! There are many other films focusing on intercultural and interracial relationships. See the list here
  • We used full fat and whole milk Greek yogurt so the cake would be moist and not too dry.
  • National Bundt (Pan) Day is coming up in a few days on November 15.
  • Search our blog for other Greek recipes.

Day of the Dead

(Día de los Muertos) Cookies

November 2: All Souls Day

Having lived among Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in South Texas, we came to know many as our friends and learned about their holiday traditions and customs. Around Halloween leading up to All Souls Day (Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos), we have seen several homes, churches and other significant cultural places set up colorful ofrendas (altars) as tributes to loved ones who have passed away. Displayed on these altars are framed photos of the dead, cut paper banners, flowers (marigolds), candles and/or incense, religious symbols and icons, food and other toys/trinkets. Some communities have lively parades with people dressed in skeleton costumes. Some families visit the gravesite of the deceased, decorate it and have a feast there.

At first, outside observers find the festivities excessive and even creepy. But in time we have come to appreciate the Mexican rituals that celebrate the lives of the dearly departed so that they are never forgotten! How nice it is to be remembered in a fond and fun way!

We are grateful that our amigos have taught us a little more about the Day of the Dead and invited us to participate in some of their family activities. Learn more about this Mexican holiday from the Inside Mexico website. And celebrate life (not death) with these chocolate cookies decorated with colorful fondant cutouts!


(Adapted from Southern Living Incredible Cookies)

For the chocolate cookies

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ cups butter, softened
  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (we used Mexican vainilla)


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

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. 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 in between two sheets of waxed paper.

Cut out shapes with a skull-shaped 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.

For the decorations

  • Powdered sugar
  • White fondant
  • Red fondant
  • Other different colored fondant
  • Colorful edible markers


On a clean surface dusted with powdered sugar, roll out the white fondant to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out enough skull shapes for all the cookies. Set aside in a covered container so the fondant does not dry out. Lightly brush the chocolate cookie with a little water and position the white skull-shaped fondant over it. Smooth out the edges.

Roll out the red fondant and cut out a tiny heart shape using the mini heart plunger tool. Dab a little water on the red heard and position it upside down in the center of the white skull-shaped fondant. Use different shaped flower cutters on different colored fondant to make the eye layers.

Use the end of a large round tip to make the eyeballs. Attach “eyes and eyeball” layers with a little water. Roll out different colored fondant and cut a small daisy shape. Position part of the daisy shape on top of the skull.

Trim off the three petal parts on top and save this to position on the chin as a decoration, attaching both with a brush of water. Use different color edible markers to draw the facial decorations (we used dots, stitches and swirls). Be as colorful and creative as possible. Arrange on a platter and serve.


  • We got our skull-shaped cookie cutter at the gift shop in the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston, Texas. As morbid as the experience seemed to be, the exhibits and historical information were presented very well. Everything was fascinating and well worth the trip and visit.
  • Pan de muerto (sweet “bread of the dead”) and sugar skulls are foods related to Día de los Muertos. We hope to feature these recipes in upcoming blog posts.
  • Vanilla sugar cookies may be substituted in this recipe. But because chocolate originated in Mexico and has a nice color contrast to the white fondant, we baked dark chocolate cookies instead. We also used fondant to decorate them because we still have not mastered icing (outlining and flooding) our cookies!
  • Search our blog for more Mexican, Tex-Mex and Halloween recipes.

Election 2016 Cookies


November 8: Election Day 2016

After several months of crazy campaigning, Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency. But Hillary Clinton’s cookie recipe won by a landslide—for the third time since Family Circle magazine began its election bake-off in 1992.

A few months before Election Day, the magazine prints the favorite cookie recipes shared by spouses of the candidates (back then, Hillary’s husband, Bill Clinton, ran for president). Then the readers vote on which cookie they prefer best. The winning recipe supposedly is a predictor of who becomes the next president.

Since its inaugural year, Family Circle’s track record was accurate. But in 2008, Cindy McCain’s cookie recipe won over Michelle Obama’s (but Barack Obama won the presidency). In 2012, Michelle’s new cookie recipe won over that of Ann Romney, and Barack went on to serve his second term. This year, Bill Clinton re-used his wife’s cookie recipe, which won over Melania Trump’s. But Donald was voted as president.

We baked both the Clinton family cookie recipe and Melania’s cookie recipe for Islander’s brother’s student ministry again this year (our third time during a presidential election). It was a fun food activity for everyone, regardless of age, nationality, race, party affiliation, etc. Despite differences of opinions, this cookie election has brought everyone together. God bless America!


(Adapted from Family Circle)


For the Clinton Family’s Chocolate Chip-Oatmeal Cookies

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not the quick-cooking oats)
  • 1 package (12 ounces) chocolate chips


In a small bowl, combine the flour with the baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream the vegetable shortening with the brown and white sugars until smooth. Beat in the eggs.


Add the vanilla extract. Gradually add the flour mixture and the rolled oats, alternating ingredients during the mix-in. Stir in the chocolate chips.


Scoop a tablespoon onto greased baking sheets 2-3 inches apart to allow for spreading. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for five minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: Approximately 4-5 dozen cookies.



For Melania Trump’s Star-Shaped Sugar Cookies

  • 2 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened (we used European-style butter because of Melania Trump’s Slovenian heritage)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons sour cream


In a small bowl, combine the flour with the baking soda. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the powdered sugar until smooth. Beat in the whole egg and egg yolk.


Mix in the sour cream. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until cookie dough is formed. Roll into a large ball. Then divide dough into two balls.


Flatten into a disk between two sheets of lightly-floured waxed paper. Roll out to 1/8-inch thick. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes. Meanwhile, line baking sheets with waxed paper. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Peel away the waxed paper. Use a 2 ½ – inch star-shaped cookie cutter to cut out shapes, re-rolling the dough scraps as necessary. Place star cookies about 1-2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Refrigerate the whole sheet for another 10 minutes or until the dough firms up again so when the cookies bake, the shape is retained.


Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for five minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: Approximately 3 dozen cookies.




Chimichangas San Carlos

Chimichangas San Carlos

November 4: Feast Day of St. Charles Borromeo

Happy birthday to Brother Brian H. who was born on the Feast Day of St. Charles Borromeo (also his patron saint). Brian was one of the less finicky ones to cook for at a Catholic community house whenever the priests, brothers and lay people celebrated their birthdays or saint days (Brian used to live in community with Islander’s brother and others in their congregation).

With rotating “celebrations of life”, we would need to remember who wanted to eat what at the house, which can get confusing! For instance, Father Bill B. does not like coconut but loves anything chocolate; Nicholas M. does not like chocolate but insists on a strawberry-and-cream cake or confetti cake; Father Tim likes rocky road; “sistah” Lisa V. also does not like chocolate but prefers lemon and guava flavors; Justin Q. likes all sweets but does not like fish (which he admits is problematic during Lent); and Brother Dennis likes tres leches but not pasta. But Brian goes along with whatever food we gift him with (he usually combines his cake with Nicholas because their birthdays are within days of each other).

But here is a recipe we tried in honor of Brian and his patron saint—Chimichangas San Carlos. This Tex-Mex dish is deliciously appropriate, since Brian ministers in the area. It is a tortilla filled with a meat mixture, then folded and fried. Similar to a burrito, Chimichangas San Carlos remind us of wrapping a gift for him but it is edible. Try this festive food for birthdays and on the Feast Day of St. Charles Borromeo.


(Adapted from Cooking with the Saints by Ernst Schuegraf)


  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 pound ground beef, lean
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1-2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 6-8 large flour tortillas
  • vegetable oil (for frying)


Chop the onions and tomatoes. Set aside. In a large skillet, heat a little vegetable oil and sauté the onions, tomatoes and minced garlic. Add the ground beef and cook until brown.


Add the chili powder, cumin, oregano and salt. Mix well. Drain any liquid. Set the filling aside to cool.


When ready to assemble, slice the avocado and set aside. Place some of the meat mixture in the middle of the tortilla. Sprinkle with a handful of cheese. Top with a few slices of avocado.


Fold like a square envelope, beginning with the sides. Secure the tortilla flap with a toothpick.


Place side down on a baking sheet. Continue to fold the rest of the chimichangas. Heat a deep fryer with oil. Carefully lower the chimichangas into the oil and fry until brown. Remove with a slotted spatula and drain on paper towels. Take out the toothpick. Serve hot with shredded lettuce and condiments (hot sauce, sour cream or salsa).



  • Warm the tortillas according to the package directions so they are more pliable and won’t tear as easily.
  • Search our blog for other Mexican or Tex-Mex 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!


(Adapted from Jane Lyons on HonestCooking.com)


  • 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


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


  • 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).

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes

November 11: Remembrance Day/ Jour du Souvenir (Canada)

Canada, Highlander’s birthplace, and other Commonwealth countries observe Remembrance Day/ Jour du Souvenir on November 11, the same day the U.S.A. honors its war veterans and military personnel. Remembrance Day is their version of America’s Memorial Day. The Remembrance Day symbol is a poppy flower, as mentioned in John McCrae’s poem, “In Flanders Field”. The lieutenant colonel from Canada was moved to write it for a friend’s funeral during World War I.

For a Remembrance Day prayer gathering, we were inspired to use the iconic flower for a delicious dessert—lemon poppy seed cupcakes topped with fondant poppies. It was an appropriate tasty treat to remember the brave ones who sacrificed their lives to protect their countries. God bless their souls!


For the fondant poppy flowers

  • Powdered sugar (for dusting the work surface)
  • Red fondant
  • Black tube frosting
  • Poppy seeds


On a surface that has been dusted with powdered sugar, roll out red fondant to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out poppies using a 5-petal flower cutter. Use the impression/veining tool and press to give texture on each petal. Place the cut fondant poppy on a foam pad and lightly press down the center with the ball tool.

Lemon Poppy See Cupcakes

Place fondant poppies on flower formers and let dry for about 3 hours or overnight. Dot the centers of each poppy with black icing. Sprinkle poppy seeds on the middle, brushing away the excess from the center. Set aside to dry.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes

For the cupcakes and frosting


Prepare the batter for the lemon buttermilk poppy seed cake. Scoop into red cupcake papers. Bake and cool completely on a wire rack.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes

Make the lemon buttercream icing (do not tint it yellow). Frost the cupcakes (we used Wilton tip 1M to make the swirls).

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes

Position a fondant poppy seed flower on the top center. Serve at room temperature.

Lemon Poppy Seed Cupcakes


  • Happy Veterans Day to all those who have served and are serving in the military, including Islander’s Daddy (retired U.S. Navy chief). Thank you!

Chocolate Bavarian Cream Pie

Chocolate Bavarian Cream Pie

November 27: National Bavarian Cream Pie Day

During our Thanksgiving dinners, we always present our guests with a pair of pie options: classic (pumpkin, apple, pecan and/or sweet potato) and creative (haupia, crack, buko, etc). To the latter list, we add Chocolate Bavarian Cream Pie. Chocoholics appreciate this alternate flavor to the more popular pies.

Because there is so much to cook for Thanksgiving, we prepare our pies ahead of time. If we are behind schedule, we admit to taking shortcuts, such as using ready-made pie crusts and Cool Whip (Islander uses this sometimes because it is dairy-free).

Chocolate Bavarian Cream Pie is similar to other pudding-filled pies so this may be comforting to those who are accustomed to traditional treats. Make this delicious dessert ahead of Thanksgiving and especially for National Bavarian Cream Pie Day.


(Adapted from Jell-O via Dying For Chocolate)


  • 1 small box (4 ounces) chocolate pudding mix
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 envelope unflavored gelatin (we used Knox brand)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups milk (we used lactose-free)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
  • 2 cups non-dairy whipped topping mix (Cool Whip or prepared Dream Whip)
  • 1 9-inch ready-made pie crust (we used Nabisco Oreo brand)


In a saucepan, combine the chocolate pudding mix, sugar, gelatin and a pinch of salt.

Chocolate Bavarian Cream Pie

In a small bowl, beat the egg with the milk. Pour into the saucepan with the other ingredients. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the mixture comes to a full boil. Stir in the vanilla. Remove from the saucepan and transfer to a large glass bowl, straining any egg debri or lumps if necessary. Cover the surface with waxed paper or plastic wrap so a film does not develop over the top of the pudding. Refrigerate until cold.

Chocolate Bavarian Cream Pie

Meanwhile, make the non-dairy whipped topping (or use Cool Whip). Beat the pudding mixture until it is creamy. Fold in the non-dairy whipped topping and blend well.

Chocolate Bavarian Cream Pie

Spread mixture into the pie crust. Refrigerate until firm (or freeze for an ice cream-like treat). Decorated with chocolate leaves or top with extra non-dairy whipped cream (optional).

Chocolate Bavarian Cream Pie


  • The ready-made pie crust could be chocolate flavor or graham cracker (Keebler brand).
  • Sprinkle mini chocolate chips or chocolate shavings on top of the Chocolate Bavarian Cream Pie for a pretty presentation. We added chocolate fall leaves on ours as an autumnal accent by using Wilton’s dessert accent candy mold.
  • Search our blog for other pie recipes.

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