Thursday, December 2, 2010

Traditional Christmas Treats: A Canadian Foodie Style

Remember to get in our Quickies Noodle Challenge.  Your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to create a fun, sexy, inventive noodle dish.  The deadline for entry is midnight December 14, 2010.

The grand prize is a fantastic cookbook Quickies: Morning, Noon, and Night written by my good friend the super talented Denise Fletcher.

Guest Post Spotlight Thursday

This week I have the pleasure of turning over the LC floor to Valerie from A Canadian Foodie.  Valerie runs of the most engaging blogs around.  Hailing from Edmonton, Alberta, she is moving Traditional Canadian Prairie Cooking forward.  Whether it is cooking sous vide or baking delicious holiday treats, there is always well executed and interesting food to offer.

Valerie always has something to say and is not afraid to say it.  I like that!  She truly is a sweet person and a supportive blogger.  Please check out A Canadian Foodie you will be glad you did.


It is December second! Time to get those traditional Christmas treats prepared for your loved ones this season! I was introduced to Lazaro through my dear blogging and local friend, LeQuan. Actually, I had spied him enjoying many of the same sites I read and enjoy regularly, so I popped over to his. This is a man serious about his food. I love that. I became a "Lazaro regular". Still, I was blown away when he asked me to do a guest post earlier in the fall. Truly. Am I his admirer, yes! Stalker, yes! But, I have just begun developing a relationship with him and look forward to many personal sharings in the future.

So, dear Lazaro, I am honoured to share some of our Christmas baking traditions with you and your readers.

These were inspired by my mom. She made shortbread every Christmas cut into more traditional rectangles. Buttery shortbread in the oven was the onset of Christmas in our house when I was a child. However, one Spring, I recall the most beautiful pink and green shortbread sandwiches on a tiered tray in the dining room. I had never seen anything so delicate and beautiful. I never thought of them again until many, many years later when I was a young mother going through mom's cupboard to borrow her rectangular cookie cutter when I came upon a round cutter and the memories of those precious dainties flooded back. She gave me the cutter which I have in my cookie cutter vault and our favourite of all favourite family traditions was born.

There were inspired by my grandmother, Maude. She had Brown-eyed Susan flowers growing wild on her property when I was a child and when she first made these cookies, I was in awe. They were much bigger and flatter and so delicious. Everything grandma made was delicious - and big! I was captured by these because they looked nothing like the flower but always reminded me of it, just the same. It wasn't until my first year of teaching school, thirty years ago, when a mom brought these cookies to a party that I remembered grandma's. I got the recipe from Brenna's mom, changed the shape, and have made them every year since.

I like having a positive and a negative plated side by side. This is the perfect counterpart to the Brown Eyed Susan and it has a very personal story, too. I was born and raised n Red Deer, Alberta, just 100 miles South of Edmonton where I live now, and returned for a retirement party of a neighbour about twenty years ago and discovered this cookie on the treat table. It looked nothing like this as it was large and flat and round with ground pecans on top, but it was chewy and delicious. I learned that Red Deer had held an official cookie contest and this was the winner. It has a surprise caramel centre which makes it extra delicious. I had to add my heritage cookie to our plate!

These evolved from my grandmother Maude's recipe. Hers were thick and gigantic and the best in the world. I decided I needed a counterpart for the shortbread sandwiches and a cookie that had a winter theme and was not so specific to just Christmas.The crystal sugar makes them sparkle and we all love them!

These are an homage to one of my favourite cities in the world: Venice. I have been there three times, and still long to go back. I love marzipan and recalling the gorgeous sweets pressed against the glass windows in all of the narrow winding streets there I did a little research to find one I could make. This was it. It was not easy at first, but it is now. One batch is enough for the season and for gift giving. Everyone loves them and the family enjoys the additions to our traditional plate as the years go by.

Firenze is my favourite city. I want to live there. Apparently, these cookies do not hail from that region, but they do in my mind. They remind me of the ones I found in the small crowded shops; they are also an homage to my future retirement home. I hope. My dear friend, Rae, found this recipe. We did cookie baking together a few Christmases and it is difficult to find a Florentine that is not so labour intensive. This one is not so easy to make, but so worth it, and so much easier than many we read about. I make two batches of these as they are sensational.

Ah, the butter tart! This is a traditional Canadian tart and my particular recipe comes from my great grandmother: Maude's mother. It has only currants in it and she changed it to add corn syrup when that came out sometime in the 1800's. I have never tasted a butter tart recipe as good as this one. The tart shell shape evolved about twenty five years ago when one of my students brought butter tarts to school that her grandmother had made looking very similar to these. I had to find the cookie cutter and I did in an antique store! I remember Grandma Maude, and her mother, and my little student, Jenny, every time I make these.

I adore these! I squiggle and giggle every time I make them. The recipe is from the Western Canadian famous Best of Bridge series. The shells are very labour intensive to make. Watch a good movie. The filling is puckery perfect. And the violet? My tribute to my travels in France: Oh, how I love thee! I grow my own violets and taught myself how to sugar them. They are not tasty, like the ones in France, but they are boo-ti-full!

These are have graced our table for the past five years and are the best rum balls I have every eaten. I never made them as I never liked them. I also used to made several different kind of truffles every year, so it was just too much to think of another round chocolate morsel. Rae's sister, Debbie, found this recipe. One batch makes enough for an army, so be prepared to gift some. They are extraordinarily moist, pack a powerful rum punch that is perfectly paired with the marzipan chunks and deep dark chocolate.

I discovered this only last year through Helene at Super Kitchen Machine. I had seen it before on The British Larder's site, but just didn't find it as appealing until I saw Helene's version of it. This is the best gift I can give at Christmas. I love everything about it! It is easy to make, delicious, and has an artisan appeal that I adore. You might even say it is somewhat nutritious with all of the good nuts and grains that go into it! Did I say it was delicious? It is! It does help to have my favourite kitchen machine (The Thermomix) to make it with, but you can make it without one, too. If you don't bake traditional sweets, this is the one treat that I would definitely encourage you to try!

The criteria for our Traditional Family Favourites is simple: each has to be spectacular in its own right to make it to the plate. In my circle of family and friends, each of these meets that criteria.

Each comes from a special place in my heart and as I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas this season, I would love to hear about your family cookie traditions! It makes me so sad that fewer and fewer of my friends carry this tradition on at all. It used to be that we could go from house to house and the pride on the face of the hostess beamed as she offered you her wares wrapped in love during the season. Far too often now, everything is purchased. It is too easy. But, is there a story to tell? Is there a connection to the past on that plate?

Please share your Traditional Christmas favourites! There is still so much to learn and explore... and more traditions to build.

Merry Christmas, everyone. The season has begun!

I found them! You can't hide them from me! (Frozen cookies DO taste good!)

For more please click on over to A Canadian Foodie.


  1. I decided no cookies this year and then I read this... you are evil and make the loveliest cookies on the planet. Great guest post... think I'll stop by your blog and see what else you have to tempt me!

  2. these are spectacular, can't wait to try the ventian rainbow thanks for sharing this wonderful post of awesome looking cookies Valerie and lazaro for hosting wow!

  3. I'll say she's moving Traditional Canadian Prairie Food forward! These cookies are pieces of art! Great guest post - thanks for introducing us to Valerie!

  4. Lazaro,

    THANK YOU for having one of my favorite bloggers on your site. You really do know how to pick them. Valerie is truly a book of knowledge and such a kind, sweet soul. I can say that with confident because I've had the pleasure of meeting her a couple times. Her joy and enthusiasm with everything she does is contagious, as you can tell in all her posts, including this one. Youve hit the jackpot, my friend ;-).


    Aaaaaack! I need to take some miracle pills to get over this cold so K and I can make cookies with you this weekend. I'm ashamed to say that I'm almost using my child for priceless cookie making lesson with you...teehee. I'm still crossing my fingers that K doesn't have my cold.

    These are absolutely gorgeous cookies! I love how each cookie has a story behind it. I've said it before and I'll keep on saying it, you are a true inspiration, my friend. I don't only mean that in the cooking sense but in general. You do so much for your community, family, and friends without even thinking twice about it. The energizer bunny has nothing on Stalk you in the "real" world ;-) Great guest post!!!!!!

  5. Valeria, nice to meet you! I came across your name at LeQuan's several times. I adore all of these beautiful cookies!! They don't meet criteria...but they're beyond! Love the pearl balls too. Happy Christmas to you and your family!

    Great guest post as always Laz!

  6. Again, Lazaro, thank you for this opportunity! I look forward to more interchanges in the future. I cannot wait to see what you come up with to post on my site. This was my very first guest post, and you will be my very first guest!
    What fun!

  7. Laz -- Thanks for bringing us another wonderful guest post from another fantastic foodie!

    Valerie -- That is a seriously gorgeous tray of cookies! For the past couple years I've been dying to make the Venetian Rainbow Cookies but I haven't done it yet...this may be the year! :)

  8. Hello Valerie,
    Delightful guest post...what a wonderful array of Holiday treats :)
    Always the best Laz :)

  9. Lazaro, it's great reading all your guest posts. It's amazing how u managed it all. If u'd noticed, I'm a bit slow since I got back from my vacation. Still suffering from "jet-lag". Hahaha!

    Valerie, thks for sharing these beautiful X'mas treats. I cook a lot but I can't bake for nuts, so I can only drool :) Will definitely find time to visit your blog soon & looking fwd to sharing!

  10. Lazaro...thanks for sharing all your guest posts with reading them and thank you for this particular guest post from all the christmas cookies treats :) Thanks Valerie :)

  11. Wow, Valerie! You have been busy. These are beautiful and a wonderful selection of traditional and nouveau.

  12. Amazing post Valerie! Your cookies look beautiful. I am intrigued by the chocolate salami. Thanks for sharing them. I don't know which one to try first:)

    Hi Lazaro. Thank you for your kind words on my blog. Looking forward to following your blog.

  13. Hi Valerie - these cookies are certainly gorgeous in their own right, each and every single one of them!! I thought the pink and green shortbread sandwich cookie was breathtaking, until I scrolled down and kept reading and seeing another and another and another and each one as beautiful, if not more so, than the previous one!!! It's like a cookie beauty pageant!! Thank you for sharing your lovely traditions with us - many of my family's Christmas traditions died with my grandmother's passing and I feel badly now, for having let them go. You've inspired me to at least try to keep them alive :)

    Lazaro - thank you for turning the floor over to Valerie and inviting her to share such an inspiring, touching and beautiful post with us!

  14. These days I am constantly scouting around for new XMas cookie ideas and all of these sound wonderful! What a great post.

  15. Valerie is a gem!
    And so are these holiday goodies! Nice guest blog, Lazaro.

  16. Denise: Get out your grandmothers recipe box and revive your favourites! It was my grandmother's passing several years ago, now, that prompted me to keep her with us through her food. Every Christmas she would bring buckets of caramel popcorn to everyone and make it originally in the form of "popcorn cakes". We all make it every year for ourselves and our friends. We remember her through this process and with the big bowl on the table. There is nothing that connects me to my past more than the recipes passed from generation to generation. Each has a story and holds a piece of our family history within it. I love that. I look forward to your grandmother's recipes! Thank you for your kind kind words and Happy, happy holidays!

  17. Hi Valerie, I have always wanted to try Venetian Rainbow Bar Cookies! I think they look so cool and your photo is wonderful. Great guest post, you've inspired me to start the holiday baking;)
    Thanks Lazaro for sharing another fabulous guest post and highlighting Valerie!

  18. what a great post... love all the different Christmas cookies.. they are unique... indeed one of a kind. Great job Valerie, and Lazaro, thank you for introducing me to Valerie!

  19. Wow, what a load of wonderful cookie ideas for the holidays. My sister in law swears by a rum ball she first tasted in Rome. I could not find it when I was there, but this looks suspiciously like the one she sent me a picture of, so I hope to surprise her with this one. Thank you so much for showcasing some amazing talent and being such an inspiration.

  20. Im not a dessert person, but everytime I take a look at pictures with varieties of sweet treats, it gives me glee. I would love to baking a try sometime, i guess its a bit more challenging than cooking. I would love to try the Venetian rainbow cookies and the chocolate Salami! Looks yummy and fun to make.. U

  21. I have to say, I only had time to make one batch of cookies this year and they were the rum balls featured here. What a hit! My SIL, who spoke longingly of the rum balls she sampled in Rome told me this was the closest yet to her memories. Thank you so much, I cannot wait to try the others!


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