My copy of the Wind in the Willows was a gift from my grandmother. While it was her favourite childhood book, I never really enjoyed it as much as she did. Taking a glance at it as an adult, I can see the language would have been a little difficult for a new reader, but it's quite beautifully written and the books is full of food! Wind is not terribly popular reading material any longer, but there are several films, cartoons, and a BBC live human version that your kids might enjoy. And take a look at the book and see if it might be something you'd enjoy reading to the kids.

One of the many nummy dishes celebrated in the book is trifle---one of my favourite desserts. I like it made with everything from traditional strawberries and slivered almonds to rhubarb and pistachios. And of course sherry. The following recipe is so easy to assemble even young children can help and the ingredients are such that you may have everything on hand. You can use entirely packaged ingredients or add whatever fresh or homemade components that you choose.

1 package cherry or strawberry jello

1 package vanilla pudding or custard from scratch or from Birds Custard Mix

1 pound cake

1 carton, tin, or bowl of whipped cream 

Chopped nuts, if desired

Fresh, frozen or tinned berries of any kind---strawberries, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, loganberries, boysenberries, marionberries

Prepare the jello according to the package. It takes several hour to gel.

You can make the jello yourself as it uses boiling water and have it ready to go for the kids or supervised kids can make in the morning and assemble the rest for dessert

Prepare the pudding according to the package.

Place the set jello in the serving container. If you have no trifle bowl, then a clear glass bowl or clear glass individual serving dishes are ideal, but not necessary.

Cut the pound cake or tear it into cubes. 

Place the cubes over the jello.

Pour the pudding over the cake and jello.

Place the defrosted, drained, or washed berries over the pudding. 

Top with whipped cream and nuts. 

No sherry for this one.

Sleepover Cannelloni

It's hard to know what to prepare for kids' sleepovers. You want to rise to such a grand occasion, but sleepovers can be hectic and kids can be fussy. This recipe from First Meals by Annabel Karmel is perfect. You can prepare the whole thing yourself in advance, you can prepare it alongside older children, or you can make most of it while smaller children handle "decorating"  the sleeping children. You can adjust this recipe to cater to various degrees of fussiness omitting the mustard, using a very mild cheese, etc. 

Cannelloni shells, parboiled

1 1/2 cups frozen spinach or fresh cleaned, chopped

2 Tablespoons butter

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 Tablespoon flour

1/3 cup milk

2 Tablespoons heavy cream

salt and pepper

Cook the spinach in the microwave or on the stove top (without water) for about five minutes. 

Cool.

Squeeze out excess moisture.

Melt the butter in a saute pan. 

Add the onion. 

Saute until soft. 

Stir in the flour and cook for one minute. 

Add the spinach and the milk. 

Cook for two minutes.

Add the cream and seasonings to taste. 

Cool to room temp.

Grease a baking dish. 

Push stuffing carefully into the parboiled tubes.

Place in baking dish.  

Make the cheese sauce:

2 Tablespoons butter

1/4 cup flour

1 3/4 cup milk

2 cups grated hard cheese such as Gruyere, cheddar, 

1/2 teaspoon dry mustard or 1 tablespoon Dijon

salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a saucepan.

Add the flour and cook for two minutes.

Whisk in the milk to form a smooth sauce.

Add the cheese until just melted. 

Add the mustard and season.

Pour over the shells. 

If freezing, do so now. Defrost before cooking.

If refrigerating, do so now and bring to room temp before cooking. 

Decorate right before cooking. 

Preheat oven to 350.

For decorating:

olives, green or black, pitted for eyes, shoes

red peppers strips or pimento for mouths, hair ribbons

green pepper strips

Grated cheese as hair

Bake for 35 minutes.  

Serve with strips of red and green pepper, cherry tomatoes, and cucs for munching.  

Not a pretty dish but a filling and delicious one.

This simple, filling, and delicious dish is ideal for cold winter evenings for your family or guests. Corned Beef isn't as popular as it used to be and it's not available eveywhere at anytime. Often it is now pre-packaged and partially cooked which makes it even easier for you to prepare. You'll welcome the leftovers this recipe provides. 

4 pounds corned beef brisket

water enough to cover

6 onions, peeled and quartered 

6 carrots, peeled and chunked

6 potatoes,peeled and chunked

1 bay leaf

6 peppercorns

parsnips, peeled and chunked, optional

turnips, peeled and chunked, optional

Place the beef in a heavy pot.

Cover with water.

Add the bay and peppercorns. Remember corned beef is very salty, no salt need be added.

Bring to a boil, then simmer for three hourse adding the vegetables at the last hour or half hour of cooking. 

Place everything on a platter and serve with dishes of horseradish, mustard, pickled beets, and gherkins alongside.

Tea Souffle to Celebrate Downton Abbey

Tea Soufflé

Downton Abbey is back so for you to enjoy before, after, or during your viewing I provide an apropos and quite delicious treat. This tea soufflé recipe comes to us from Mrs. Bridge's Upstairs Downstairs Cookery Book, so I invoke both programmes. 

Serve this sweet soufflé as a luncheon dessert if you aren't eating it while watching Downton. Naturally, it tastes like a creamy, sugary cup of tea.

1-ounce butter

1-ounce flour

3 tablespoons milk

1 teacupful strong, prepared tea

2 ounces sugar

4 egg yolks and 5 egg whites, separated

Pinch of salt

Extra butter and sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 400.F


Make a roux of the butter and flour in a saucepan.

Add the milk and make a paste.

Add the tea slowly over the heat, blending with a whisk until smooth. 

Cook gently for five minutes.

Remove from heat.

Beat the eggs yolks.

Add the eggs to the slightly cooled tea mixture.

Beat the egg whites and salt until peaky, but not stiff.

Fold the whites into the tea mixture and gently blend without beating.

Pour into buttered and sugared individual ramekins or a single soufflé dish.

Bake for 20 minutes for small soufflés and longer for a single souffle.

When they are puffy and golden brown remove from the oven and sprinkle with sugar.

Serve immediately.

The standard recipe for Who Pudding from the Dr. Seuss website can be a disappointment for kids because, after making it, you have to let it sit in the fridge for 8 hours to overnight. This quicker rice pudding is just as yummy. Make it over the winter vacation while watching or reading "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas ".

1/2 cup long grain white rice or one cup cooked leftover rice

1 1/4 cup water (not needed if using pre-cooked rice)

1 egg

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cinnamon to taste

Red and green M&Ms ( or other colourful Christmas candy)

Boil the rice and water in a saucepan.

Reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes after it comes to a boil.  

Whisk the egg in a bowl, then add the milk and sugar. 

Pour over the rice.

Bring to a boil again, then reduce heat and cook at low heat for about 30 minutes stirring often.

Stir in the vanilla. Add cinnamon if desired.

You can serve it warm, room temp or cold. 

Garnish with M&Ms or other red and green candy.

Persimmon Breakfast Parfait

Inspired by the dessert parfait from Maman's Homesick Pie, I wanted a lighter, quicker version. This colourful, healthy, and quick breakfast is perfect for using autumn persimmons and pomegranates.

Persimmon pulp,very soft

Honey to taste

Yogurt, flavoured or plain, if desired

Granola, if desired

A scattering of pistachio and/or pomegranate seeds ( other seeds or nuts will taste good too).

Place granola in a bowl.

Cover with yogurt, then pomegranate pulp.

Dribble with honey and scatter with nuts and seeds.