Lavender Butterscotch Blondies

Dried lavender — the kind that can be added to baked goods to give it a distinctive flowery taste — is becoming more and more readily available across the country. But once you’ve got your hands on a jar of these little purple buds, what do you do with it? A little bit of lavender goes a long way; the flavour is strong and you have to make sure it complements your other ingredients. That said, if the flavour appeals to you, a pinch of lavender can take an otherwise ordinary dessert from plain to special occasion-worthy.

We’re big fans of blondies. Like brownies, they’re chewy and delicious, but without the fudgey-ness there’s more room to play with different flavours and add-ins. These blondies combine lavender with good ol’ butterscotch chips for an easy, but slightly fancier treat. Read More

Asparagus and Brussels Sprouts Carbonara

Pasta carbonara (also known in less fancy circles as “bacon ‘n’ eggs pasta”) is delicious, but in the springtime, it’s nice to lighten up the classics with some green veg. This version of carbonara brings in Brussels sprouts and asparagus for some spring flavour. If you have a food processor, use it to get your sprouts nice and thin — if you don’t have one handy, just trim off the ends and loose outer leaves (and wash them!) and slice them as thinly as possible with a sharp knife. Read More

Slow Cooker Nuts and Bolts

Nuts and bolts are a holiday cocktail party staple, we can’t imagine the season without them. It’s fun to experiment with different flavours — sweet, spicy, curried — but we also like sticking to this classic, dressed with Worcestershire and plenty of butter. Since our ovens are usually full of cookies, flaky appetizers and other goodies over the holidays, we like turning to the slow cooker to take care of the nuts and bolts. You have to be around to stir the mixture so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the crock, but they do cook up fairly quickly (compared to other slow cooker recipes at least).

This recipe appears in our book The Family Slow Cooker (which also includes a sweet snack mix) and can be easily adapted to use up whatever cereal or crispy snacks you may have on hand. We often leave out the peanuts out for friends who may have allergies and to keep the mix school safe. Read More

Olive Cheese Balls

There are some recipes that are so essential to individual families’ holidays that the thought of doing Christmas without them is just unfathomable. In Elizabeth’s family, that recipe is for Olive Cheese Balls — little puffs of cheesy shortbread wrapped around green pimento-stuffed olives. Elizabeth’s mom always made them for her annual Boxing Day party and now Elizabeth makes them for her own early December open house to kick off the season.

These were a staple in the ’70s (when Elizabeth’s mom would have first discovered them) — there is indeed a version called Olive Cheese Balls in the very first Best of Bridge cookbook. The original ladies called them Olive Cheese Puffs and suggested using gherkins or cocktail onions in place of the olives and spicing things up with a half teaspoon of paprika (a little bit of cayenne would also work). Whichever way you go, these freeze beautifully — freeze them after they’ve been fully baked and then reheat them until the dough softens up and the olives inside are warm. Read More

Slow Cooker Dill Pickle Soup

This time of year we crave a good belly warming soup — and homemade soup is even better if you let it simmer away in the slow cooker while you’re out skiing or playing in the snow. The feeling of coming how to a warm crock of soup is one of the best parts of winter.

This recipe for Dill Pickle Soup is from our 2016 book The Family Slow Cooker. While the flavour may seem odd (yes, you do put the pickle brine right in the soup!), it’s actually surprisingly hearty and delicious. Give it a try — you can adjust the amount of brine you use to your own tastes, but we think the more brine the better! Read More

Slow Cooker Jelly Meatballs

Like a lot of readers, we love so many of the original ladies’ entertaining recipes. For example, no matter how cooking trends change, if there’s a dish of Jelly Meatballs on a buffet table, we’re going to grab a toothpick and eat at least a couple of them. Simple and convenient to make, the jelly ball may just be the perfect holiday appetizer.

When we put together our Family Slow Cooker book last year, we wanted to include some of these original recipes, cooked up in a slow cooker for even more convenience. The original Jelly Balls recipe, which appeared in the Winners Book (and can still be found in the Complete Best of Bridge Cookbooks Volume 2) were cooked in a pot and then served in a chafing dish, but this version is done completely in a slow cooker. We also use frozen fully cooked meatballs to make things even easier. If you want to add some heat, throw in a couple of tablespoons of sambal oelek with the jelly. Read More