Fruit and Vanilla-Almond Cream

Ah summer, AKA dreaded season of extensive potlucks and family barbecues. You may think to yourself, “What’s the big deal, you go to the store and buy a pre-sliced Pumpernickel loaf with a tub of spinach dip.”  WE DON’T DO THAT HERE, eh?

You see, I’m originally from the southern US and raised by an era of people who would rather die than serve a guest something that wasn’t made by hand. I’m pretty sure there’s a law that involves tarring and feathering, and nasty whispers about your kitchen skills if you serve anything that came from a store. That’s just how we roll.

Fruit & Vanilla Almond Cream

My maternal grandmother, who lived in Minnesota but still had all those southern hospitality values, once apologized profusely to my husband for serving him corn on the cob that had been picked two days previously instead of having come pretty much straight off the back of a farmer’s tractor.  This same Grandma and I were on my cousin’s wife’s black list after we catered her wedding rehearsal dinner for 50 people by ourselves and put out a better spread than what was served the next day at the wedding dinner (a fact that nobody failed to mention to us in her hearing, and something I still maintain is not our fault. How were we to know that someone would actually order chicken and vegan bean fajitas as the wedding dinner?).

Anyway, my point is: In the south and bread-basket of America, nobody messes with dinner. That stuff be serious, yo.

 Now, that said, just because you have to take pride in southern hospitality, that doesn’t mean you have to make life difficult for yourself. Certain shortcuts are allowed if you make it with love, especially if the recipe has history.Fruit & Vanilla Almond Cream Pudding

Fruit and Vanilla-Almond Cream is one such recipe. It has history. It was clipped out of a Taste of Home magazine when I was 18 years old. I still have it taped into the spiral bound notebook that constitutes my cookbook of recipes that I don’t have memorized or can’t freehand. You know, for reference’s sake.

I’ve made this rich, creamy, fruit and vanilla pudding recipe for dessert dozens of times, winter and summer. Whipped cream gives it a fluffiness that makes it perfect for a light dessert, and the almond pairs so deliciously with the sweet vanilla pudding  that it’s almost like eating cotton candy.

It’s flexible and goes with just about any fruit you can imagine (or have available). While the recipe calls for serving fruit on top of the pudding mixture, I usually serve the fruit and pudding separate, so that it can be eaten either as a creamy pudding with fruit on top, or a fruit salad with a decadent topping of the most delicious whipped cream you’ve ever wrapped around your tongue.

Cool Whip ain’t got nothing on this.

Fruit & Vanilla-Almond Cream
An airy and light dessert of vanilla pudding, rich whipping cream, and a hint of almond, served with delicious fresh fruit.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
  2. 2 1/2 cups cold milk
  3. 1 cup heavy whipping cream (35%)
  4. 3/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  5. 3-6 cups fruit (strawberries, grapes, raspberries, blueberries, bananas, mandarin oranges)
Instructions
  1. Pour the milk into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the instant vanilla pudding mix over the top. Whisk until combined. Set aside.
  2. In a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, or another bowl with a hand mixer, whip the whipping cream and almond extract until stiff peaks form.
  3. Fold the whipping cream mixture into the pudding mixture. Cover with plastic and chill for at least 2 hours before serving.
Notes
  1. Serving possibilities: Serve in a 2-quart dish with fruit on top (use 3 cups of fruit), or as a whipped accompaniment to be served on top of fruit salad for large potlucks (use 6 or more cups of fruit).
Adapted from Taste of Home, June/July 1997
Life In Pleasantville http://www.lifeinpleasantville.com/

Fruit & Vanilla Almond Cream - Fast Desserts

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Lemon Blueberry Loaf

I love anything with lemon in it and this Lemon Blueberry Loaf is no exception. Perfect for just about any occasion, it’s a cinch to whip up. While I love making this in the summer when blueberries are seasonal, you can also make it in the winter and substitute in frozen blueberries.

lemon blueberry loaf

Lemon Blueberry loaf

6 tbsp unsalted butter

2/3 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2  tbsp finely grated lemon zest

1 1/2  tbsp vanilla

1 large egg (room temperature)

2 large egg yolks (room temperature)

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup pastry flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

6 tbsp buttermilk

1 cup fresh blueberries

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan and sprinkle with sugar.

In a medium bowl, sift all-purpose flour together with pastry flour , baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar in large mixing bowl until smooth. Stir in vanilla and zest. Turn on beater and beat in egg and egg yolks until combined.

Alternating additions, add flour mixture, and buttermilk to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Scrape sides of bowl for an even consistency.

In a small bowl, sprinkle blueberries with flour and stir gently to cover. Fold blueberries into batter and then pour into prepared loaf pan. Bake in centre of oven for 50 to 60 minutes until cake tester inserted comes out clean.

While loaf is in the oven prepare glaze by combining lemon juice and sugar in a small pot over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. When loaf is done, poke holes in it with a wooden skewer and slowly pour lemon glaze over top. Allow cake to cool on rack for 20 minutes before turning out onto plate.

This Lemon Blueberry Loaf freezes beautifully whole for when you have unexpected guests, or slice and freeze in individual portions for quick grab n’ go snacks for school or work.

lemon blueberry loaf

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Nanny’s Best Date Squares

best date squares

There is a method to my madness in this space, and it’s this; Life in Pleasantville is and always will be a record of my time here for my daughters. Yes, I write with you in mind, but ultimately this is where I hope my children will come to find that favourite recipe I used to make them, or find one of my Mom’s best recipes or to look up a vacation memory. I hope that one day they’ll add to this online journal for their own children. Pretty deep for sharing my mom’s Best Date Squares recipe, isn’t it? But food has that power over us doesn’t it? To evoke strong emotions and bring back a flood of memories.

Part of being a Life Made Delicious ambassador means I get to share some of the very best recipes that make it so. My mom’s dates squares, much like her butter tarts, are one of those recipes that makes me think of her and all the love she poured into the kitchen everyday. I wonder what recipes my children will feel that way about? Maybe someday they’ll tell us right here in Pleasantville.

Nanny’s Best Date Squares

1 1/2 cups flour, all-purpose
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups rolled oats

Date Filling

2 cups chopped dates
3/4 cup cold water
2 tbsps brown sugar
grated rind of 1/2 orange (optional)
2 tbsps orange juice (optional)
1 tsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325F. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Rub or cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Add sugar and oats. Mix well.

Spread half of crumb mixture in greased, shallow 9″ square pan. Pat mixture until firm and smooth.

Cook dates, water, orange rind, and sugar in small saucepan over medium heat until thick and smooth. Remove from heat and add orange juice if using. Mix well.

Spread date mixture over crumbs in bottom of pan. Sprinkle remaining crumb mixture on top. Bake for 35-40 minutes until lightly browned. Cut squares while hot and allow to cool in pan.

best date squares

Disclosure: I am part of the Life Made Delicious Blogger program and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

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Maple Cream Pie

As a Canadian, there are two things that run in my veins; patriotic pride and maple syrup. It’s true. I’m crazy sweet….once you get to know me. Okay, I kid, but I do love the nectar of the gods, maple syrup, intensely. I am always looking for ways to include this syrupy sweetness into my cooking and that’s why I love this Maple Cream Pie.

This pie is the perfect way to herald spring’s arrival, because when the syrup is running, spring can’t be far behind. This is a perfect way to end Easter dinner and because this pie is so decadent, a little goes a long way. Plus, you’ll be sick of all that chocolate anyway, right?

maple cream pie

Maple Cream Pie

One blind baked butter pie crust
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/8 tsp salt
2/3 cup maple syrup
1 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsps. sugared pecans

In a medium saucepan, stir together sweetened condensed milk, maple syrup and salt. Cook, stirring constantly over low heat until mixture bubbles, continue to cook uncovered for four minutes. Pour into baked pie shell and let cool completely. In a cold bowl, whip cream until starting to thicken and then gradually add sugar and vanilla, continuing to beat until stiff peaks form. Spread over filling. Sprinkle with sugared pecans. Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

maple cream pie

Loaded with antioxidants, maple syrup is being touted as a bit of a superfood now, and I encourage you to find as many ways to use it in your cooking as possible. Try pouring it over other superfoods like blueberries for a sweet, healthy ending to a meal. Just don’t kid yourself into thinking this pie is healthy. Nope, this Maple Cream Pie is 100% pure decadence and that’s okay once in awhile. Enjoy!

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Classic Butter Pie Crust

Don’t be afraid of making pie crust. It’s one of the simplest things you’ll ever do. Try this classic butter pie crust for starters. Just remember to be patient. You’ll need at least two hours of chilling time for it. You can’t rush perfection after all.

butter pie crust

Butter Pie Crust

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1 stick (8 tbsps) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 to 4 tablespoons ice cold water

Pulse flour, salt and sugar together in a food processor. Gradually add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. When you have a few pea-size pieces, slowly add 2 tablespoons ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed with fingers. If dough doesn’t hold, add more ice water a tablespoon at a time.

Pour the dough out onto counter. Form into a disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until cold. At least one hour but preferably a few.

When ready to bake, unwrap dough and place on a large piece of waxed paper that has been sprinkled lightly with flour. Roll out dough to 14″ round. Grab wax paper by one end and lift dough carefully, wrapping it around rolling pin. Gently remove wax paper, and then unroll dough over 9″ pie plate. Fit dough into plate, trim edges and make decorative edge pinching between thumb and forefinger.

This is important, so don’t skip this step. You must refrigerate again for at least an hour before baking.

This recipe makes 1 pie crust. If need be double the recipe and divide in half when shaping into disks for refrigerator.

If you’ll be making a cream pie, you’ll need to blind bake your crust. You can find instructions on blind baking here.

butter pie crust

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Butter Tarts – An Ooey Gooey Treat

Here’s the thing, I’ve never made these butter tarts. This is the recipe my mom has used for years and frankly I don’t want to touch it. Not out of fear that I can’t make them mind you, but more that she’ll stop making them for me. I like to believe these have some love sprinkled in them because they certainly taste like it.

butter tarts

The tops of these butter tarts are crunchy because the sugary filling carmelizes while cooking, but the inside is drippy and messy and oh so delicious. It’s been known to make people moan. Yes, I’m looking at you Tara. I never knew that Butter Tarts were a largely Canadian treat until my friend from America informed me that you can’t get them there. I feel bad for you my dear American friends, but never fear, the recipe is here.

Butter Tarts – An Ooey Gooey Treat

For the crust:

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup cold butter, cubed
1/2 cup cold shortening, cubed
1 egg yolk
1 tsp vinegar

Butter Filling:

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 egg
2 tbsp butter, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp vinegar
Pinch salt
1/4 cup chopped pecans

butter tarts

In a large bowl, combine flour with salt. Cut in butter and shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal (there should be some larger pieces). In a liquid measuring cup, whisk egg yolk with teaspoon of vinegar. Add water until it reaches 1/3 cup mark. Gradually add to flour mixture, stirring briskly with a fork until pasty holds together. Gather dough into a ball, flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least one hour and up to three days.

In a medium bowl, whisk together well the brown sugar, corn syrup, egg, butter, vanilla, vinegar and salt.

Roll out pastry to 1/8 inch thickness. Using a 4″ cookie cutter (or 4″ wide glass) cut out 12 circles. Reroll dough if necessary. Place dough into muffin tray for 12. Spoon filling until three-quarters full.

Bake in bottom third of oven at 450F for about 12 minutes or until filling is puffed and bubbly and crust is golden. Let stand on cooling rack for one minute. Quickly run a knife around tarts to loose and transfer to rack to cool.

butter tarts

You may also like this Maple Pecan Tart. It’s a showstopper for holiday meals.

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Skillet Berry Crumble

What I love most about making this Skillet Berry Crumble is that it’s just so darn impressive looking when it’s all done. It’s just so pretty, it’s almost a shame to eat it. That being said, it’s also totally delicious so oooh and aaaah over it if you must but then sit and enjoy.

skillet berry crumble

Skillet Berry Crumble

Crust

3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup chilled vegetable shortening, cut into 1″ pieces
3 tbsps chilled unsalted butter, cut in 1/2″ cubes
4 tbsps ice water

Streusel Topping

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2″ cubes

Berry Filling

2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sour c
6 large eggs
3 cups fresh blackberries
3 cups fresh blueberries
1 cup fresh raspberries

For crust: Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in food processor. Add shortening and butter and pulse until coarse meal forms. Add ice water slowly, while using pulse. Blend until moist clumps form and add more water by the teaspooon if dough is a little dry. Be careful not to add too much water. Form dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for 1 hour.

For streusel topping: Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon and salt in food processor. Drop butter in by pieces pulsing until mixture is crumbly. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour.

For berry filling: Preheat oven to 350F. Remove dough from refrigerator and press over bottom and up sides of a 12″ cast iron skillet. Whisk sugar, flour and salt in medium bowl. Whisk sour cream and eggs in large bowl. Stir dry ingredients into sour cream mixture. Fold in berries. Spoon filling into crust and sprinkle with streusel.

Bake for roughly 1 1/2 hours or until top is puffed and golden and the centre is cooked through. Allow to cool for 30 minutes before serving.

This serves a crowd, so it’s perfect to bring to a buffet or serve when having a lot of guests for dinner. My favourite time to make this though is for summer barbecues when berries are at their freshest. It’s also a great hostess gift, leave the skillet behind of course.

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Turtle Cake How Can You Resist?

Look, I know this recipe for Turtle Cake isn’t going to help with your post-holiday paunch but who are we kidding? You know and I know that all attempts at eating tofu and vegetables will be dead in a week. Instead of going all or nothing, let’s keep some sweet in our life to balance out all that healthy stuff, k?

turtle cake

This Turtle Cake is definitely a treat. Don’t make this cake just for your family. It simply makes too much and it won’t end well if you eat it all. No, this cake is definitely a sharing cake. Think, upcoming Superbowl parties, Winter Olympic get togethers, birthday celebrations or family parties.

Turtle Cake

1 box chocolate cake mix
1 can sweetened condensed milk
24 Mack Toffee candies unwrapped (Mackintosh)
1 small bag pecans
1 small bag chocolate chips
2 tbsps butter

turtle cake

Prepare cake mix according to directions. Pour 3/4 of cake mix into a prepared 13×9 inch cake pan. Bake 20-25 minutes at 350F. Melt butter over medium low heat, add condensed milk and toffee candies. Stir constantly until melted making sure that mixture does not stick to bottom of pot. Pour toffee mixture over semi-baked cake. Sprinkle pecans and chocolate chips on top. Pour remaining cake batter over top and return to oven for an additional 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cake cool completely before cutting into squares.

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Easy Raspberry Puree

Why make raspberry puree? Can’t you just find a reasonable substitute in the store? No you can’t (I’ve looked) and you should make it because it’s the perfect compliment to so many delicious recipes you’ll wonder why you hadn’t made it before. As an added bonus this Easy Raspberry Puree is, as the name suggests, easy.

easy raspberry puree

Easy Raspberry Puree

12 oz frozen raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp lemon juice

easy raspberry puree

Place frozen raspberries in fine mesh strainer over medium size bowl. Let raspberries completely thaw. After several hours use the back of a wooden spoon to push remaining juice from raspberries into bowl. You should only have seeds and a little pulp left when finished in the strainer. Whisk in sugar and lemon juice to raspberry juice. See? Easy peasy.

So now that you’ve made it, what do you do with it? Well, personally, I love it in this drink, but you can also use it for homemade ice cream. Stir a spoonful into homemade lemonade. Drizzle it over ice cream or cheesecake. Squeeze it onto a dessert plate so you can be extra fancy schmancy and impress your friends. Finally, kick syrup to the curb for a change and use it over pancakes, waffles and crepes.

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No Fail Shortbread Cookies

There’s nothing more Christmasy than shortbread. For years I tried to make this delicate, buttery treat, but I could never get it quite right. My shortbread was crumbly and dense and tasted of defeat, which is rather salty on account of all the tears in the batter.

A couple years ago a friend of mine heard me ranting about how shortbread was the bane of my holiday existence. She decided to bestow a Christmas miracle on me in the form of these easy, no fail shortbread cookies. She is a semi-pro cookie baker, so I knew I could count on her recipe to be good.

Whipped Shortbread is now my go to shortbread recipe. Not only is it easy, it makes a lot of cookies. With four kids and a husband constantly stealing the fruits of my labor as they pass through the kitchen, baking in bulk is a real plus. These cookies are so good they often make it into my Gifts From the Kitchen packages I make every year for my friends and family.

no fail shortbread cookies

No Fail Shortbread Cookies

Preheat oven to 350

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb (2 cups) butter, very soft
  • 1/2 cup corn starch
  • 1 cup confectioner/icing sugar
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Beat all ingredients together until well combined and the batter is soft.
  2. You can either drop spoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheets or use a cookie press to make shaped cookies.
  3. Add decorative sugar or cherry bits.
  4. Cook for 10 minutes.

Makes approximately five dozen no fail shortbread cookies.

no fail shortbread cookies

Many warm and merry “thank you”s to my friend Heidi for her awesome shortbread recipe. Offering to share a family recipe with a friend is one thing, but readily agreeing to it being shared online is something else. That’s real Christmas kindness.

If you are looking for other easy recipes, check out the best fudge recipe. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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