Tag Archives: Easter

Down and Dirty

26 Apr


Okay….I promise this is the last decadent/dessert/holiday eating post before things get back to normal! But I have to share all the delicious goodness I made and ate over the Easter weekend with you all (which was followed by a produce-packed “detox day” yesterday, I promise!).

In my family, I am the go-to girl when it comes to dessert. My 11 year-old cousin Emily put in a request for Dirt Cake for Easter. Have you ever had dirt cake before? It’s that childhood favourite – chocolate pudding layered with cookie crumbs and gummy worms. IMG_0874But this version is so much better, because the chocolate pudding is mixed with a bit of butter, icing sugar, cream cheese, vanilla extract and Cool Whip for a little something extra. And look at that photo: fat-free pudding mix, skim milk, reduced-fat Oreos, light Cool Whip and cream cheese – I’d say this dessert is practically health food, wouldn’t you? (thank you for indulging my rationalizations).  Seriously though, if you can use reduced-fat/light versions of the ingredients called for in a dessert (or any other decadent recipe), why not? It may not be “healthy,” but at least the calories will reduced somewhat. And at Easter (or any holiday), I need all the help I can get!

You’ll notice one ingredient in the photo above that is not in the ingredients list – 12 mini chocolate zucchini muffins. After my mom graciously bought all the Easter groceries (thanks Mom!), I noticed that the package of Oreos she found was smaller than the one listed in the ingredients list. I didn’t want to go IMG_0906back out, but I also didn’t want to be short on “dirt". I knew I had these muffins in the freezer, so I improvised and crumbled them up – I don’t think anyone noticed a difference (or they didn’t say anything if they did). And I figured that zucchini added a little extra fibre, increasing the health benefits of this dessert even more, and then the’re also all the antioxidants in chocolate. Really, it’s practically a superfood. Winking smileMove over blueberries and quinoa, I think Dirt Cake’s at the top of the list!

This recipe comes from Company’s Coming: Kids Cooking. Honestly, I think some of the best recipes (and several of my family’s favourites) come from kids’ cookbooks (my sugar cookie recipe is also from this book). Kids’ recipes are by nature easy to make, and often crowd pleasers. But enough talking, time to get dirty, so here’s the recipe! I’m listing the standard ingredients, but of course, I used the light versions wherever possible.

Dirt Cake

From Company’s Coming Kids Cooking

1 package (454 g or 1 lb) cream-filled sandwich cookies (aka Oreos) (or one 350 g package and 12 mini chocolate zucchini muffins Smile)

1/4 cup butter, softened

8 oz/250 g cream cheese, softened

1 cup icing sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 boxes instant chocolate pudding powder (4 serving size)

6 cups milk

1 L container Cool Whip, thawed

15 gummy worms (that’s what the recipe says, but exact quantities don’t really matter here – pretty sure I used more!)


Put the cookies in a blender or food processor and process until they become fine crumbs. Set aside (be sure to pull out any stray Oreo chunks and eat them – it’s the least you could do to save your guests from getting any overly chunk dirt). Winking smile

Put the butter, cream cheese, icing sugar and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat on low speed to mix then beat on medium speed until smooth (I used my IMG_0876stand mixer, simply because it makes quite a bit. It’s totally do-able with a hand mixer though).

Add the chocolate pudding powders and milk to the bowl. Beat on low speed to combine.

Fold the whipped topping into the pudding mixture with a rubber spatula. Assemble in layers (I used a large glass trifle bowl. The recipe says you can use a 9 by 13 inch pan or a large flower pot – which is fun for kids. Make sure it’s well-washed though!) as follows:IMG_0877


  • 1/3 cookie crumbs
  • 1/2 pudding mixture
  • 1/3 cookie crumbs
  • 1/2 pudding mixture
  • 1/3 cookie crumbs

Insert gummy worms into each layer as you go, making sure you can see some poking out of the top! Chill the dessert for at least 3 hours before serving. For extra fun, serve with a plastic shovel or garden trowel.

Now, I could have just made the dirt cake my cousin requested and called it a day. IMG_0897But when have I ever just done a simple dessert that I was asked to make? This dirt needed some flowers! Since my cousin and her sister both love my sugar cookie flowers, I decided to make some flowers on sticks and “plant” them in the dirt.

I used this basic recipe for the cookies, and inserted lollipop sticks into 6 of the cookies before baking.





To decorate the cookies, I made a quick batch of Royal Icing (egg whites and icing sugar – just gradually add more icing sugar to the egg whites, stirring until you reach the consistency you want), and tinted half pale purple and half pale yellow. I achieved the cute swirl IMG_0889effect by spreading on one colour with a small knife, then using a toothpick to dollop little lines/drops of the other colour, then used the toothpick to swirl the colours together. I was pretty pleased with how it turned out, and the dirt cake (and flowers) were a hit with my family!



Now just to prove I have some balance in my life, I’ll let you know that I started Monday with an hour and half strength/cardio sweat session at the gym (felt SO good), then came home and had a healthy breakfast of cinnamon apples with yogurt and cereal, and an almond milk/iced coffee concoction.

For lunch, I made what felt like the BIGGEST SALAD OF LIFE (practically identical to this one, IMG_0903plus or minus a few ingredients) to make up for all the veggies I’d been missing over the weekend. For dessert, I made a “pumpkin spice frappucino” of sorts drink with some almond milk, pumpkin that was starting to go moldy in the fridge (don’t worry, I scraped the mold off first!) and a few other ingredients. It was just so-so, so I’m not going to bother posting an ingredient list for you – only the best for my HHH readers! Monday was an around-the-house day – getting caught up on a MOUNTAIN of laundry, working out, eating healthy, reading, blogging, making lunch for today – exactly what I needed after a weekend of moving, baking and eating.

So there’s the “dirt” on my delicious dessert. So you can see, I love to indulge, but I also love to get back on track and eat my veggies right away! Do you have a favourite “kids cooking” type of recipe (or any go-to easy-peasey recipe)? Spread the wealth – share it!


Easter overload

25 Apr


Now before you make any judgements from my title, I love Easter. I had a great Easter. It involved church, family and LOTS of food…that’s the overload part! I feel like I don’t need to eat for the rest of the week, but let’s get real…like that’s going to happen! My mom made us breakfast on Easter morning: boiled eggs (in pretty pastel egg cups), toast and fruit salad.


I briefly considered skipping lunch, since I knew I’d eat a HUGE Easter dinner, but thought better of it. I was thinking of just having a sort of snack-y lunch, but instead opted to make a big bowl of veggie stew, topped with goat cheese. Really, it doesn’t seem to matter what meal I have before a big family gathering – I always stuff myself silly….sigh. Embarrassed smile My lunch “dessert” was numerous tastes of the baking I was finishing off for dinner. Sunday is usually my day off from working out, but I fit in a 30 minute walk around the neighbourhood, as I needed all the calorie-burning  help I could get with all this food!


When I arrived at my Aunt’s ( a regular HHH reader…hi Auntie Rue!), she already had a spread of nibbles out for us (as if we needed more food before the main meal….nevertheless, I had no problem downing some): crackers, cheese, dip, veggies, fruit, salsa and chips. The best part? She bought Guiltless Gourmet chips because she read about them on the blog!

Main meal was delicious! IMG_0900In my mom’s family, Easter is always a cold dinner and always a potluck (as are all family holidays). Here’s my plate: ham, bean salad, marinated mushrooms, marinated asparagus, potato salad, Devilled egg (my sister and I both LOVE Devilled eggs. My mom never made them growing up, so we only ever eat them at family gatherings or church potlucks), my sister’s DELICIOUS fresh homemade bread and a tiny piece of spicy sausage. It was all so good, I had to have seconds of most of it (again, this is why it’s a good thing Easter is only once a year)! Two of my cousins who live out of town were able to make it in for dinner, so it was great to see everyone and catch up. The kids’ table was together again!

Dessert was my time to shine at the potluck (this should not surprise you). My contributions were dirt cake (at my cousin’s request) with sugar cookie flowers, and a vanilla bean pound cake with mango curd. I didn’t take a picture of my plate, but I had some of both….not too shabby, if I do say so myself!









I left the gathering feeling a bit overstuffed…why do I do this to myself? But, it is one day, and Easter does come only once a year. A good workout and a day packed with lots of veggies will get me right back on track. I’m going to post the mango cake recipe today, and will add the dirt cake later this week…ok with you? (not like you have a choice Smile with tongue out).

Vanilla Bean Poundcake with Mango CurdIMG_0859

I created this recipe by combining recipes from 3 different sources. Note: I am someone who loves being in the kitchen and loves to bake. I don’t mind things with multiple steps if I know they will yield delicious results. I didn’t find this recipe too difficult, but it’s certainly not a quick one. If you’re someone looking for a quick and easy dessert, it might not be the one for you. The cake recipe is one of my favourites, from the cookbook Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey by Jill O’Connor. I posted it on here before in my apple cinnamon streusel variation. The mango curd recipe is from Epicurious, it was at the top of the list when I googled “mango curd.” The buttercream recipe comes from Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes. They all combined to make one tasty cake. Here’s how you do it.


3/4 cup butter, at room temperature

4 oz (half a package) cream cheese, room temperature

1  1/2 cups sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract and/or 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped (the bean is optional, the original recipe doesn’t call for it, I just wanted to add it for a little something special)

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

Preheat oven to 325. Spray a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

Beat the butter and cream cheese together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until pale and fluffy. Beat in the salt and vanilla (and scraped seeds of the vanilla bean pod, if using).IMG_0862 The batter close-up shot shows the vanilla seeds nicely.

Add the eggs to the butter mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift the flour along with the baking powder into the batter (I just measure them both into a fine mesh strainer and shook it over the batter) and, using a large rubber spatula, fold in until no traces of flour remain and the batter is smooth.

IMG_0863Spread batter into prepared pan. Bake until the top is golden and slightly cracked  and a skewer inserted comes out with only a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool in the pan for at least ten minutes, then run a knife around the sides and turn the cake out on the pan to cool completely before serving.

Mango Curd

Note: here is the recipe as printed, with my notes/adaptations. I thought it was delicious, but not as mango-y as I had hoped.

  • 1 15-ounce ripe mango, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I wasn’t sure if this was meant to be 15 ounces before or after pitting, so I weighed the peeled, cut up mango)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

IMG_0870Puree first 4 ingredients in processor, scraping down sides of work bowl occasionally. Add yolks; puree 15 seconds longer. Strain through sieve set over large metal bowl, pressing on solids with back of spatula to release as much puree as possible. Discard solids in sieve.

Set metal bowl over saucepan of simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water); whisk puree until thickened and thermometer registers 170°F., (don’t judge my “double boiler”, okay?) about 10 minutes (I did this for 20 minutes, and it still wasn’t thick/hot enough.IMG_0872 It was late, and I was tired, so I popped the glass bowl in the microwave for a minute, whisking after 30 seconds. Worked like a charm – thickened up nicely! I only wish I had done it sooner). Remove from over water. Whisk in butter 1 piece at a time. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Swiss Meringue Buttercream

(This is the recipe as printed in the cookbook and on Martha’s website. I only made half for the cake and it was exactly the right amount). This may seem like a lot of work to go to for an icing, but trust me, it’s worth it. This icing is so smooth, and not overly sweet at all. you could make it with a hand mixer if you don’t have a stand mixer, but prepare to have a sore arm! A stand mixer really is the best option (so don’t say I didn’t warn you Winking smile)!

  • 5 large egg whites
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter cut into tablespoons, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  1. Combine egg whites, sugar, and salt in the heatproof bowl of a standing mixer set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly by hand until mixture is warm to the touch and sugar has dissolved (the mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips).

  2. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, whisk until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy and glossy, and completely cool (test by touching the bottom of the bowl), about 10 minutes.IMG_0886

With mixer on medium-low speed, add the butter a few tablespoons at a time, mixing well after each addition. Once all butter has been added, whisk in vanilla. Switch to the paddle attachment, and continue beating on low speed until all air bubbles are eliminated, about 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl with a flexible spatula, and continue beating until the frosting is completely smooth. Keep buttercream at room temperature if using the same day, or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Before using, bring to room temperature and beat with paddle attachment on low speed until smooth again, about 5 minutes.


Using a serrated knife, cut across the cake twice to make 3 layers. IMG_0890Since the pound cake is such a dense and sturdy cake, this should be quite easy.

The next part is a trick I learned from Martha. Any time you are using a filling that is not that thick and that could potentially ooze out of the cake when cut, pipe a border of icing around the side first. IMG_0891

If you have a piping bag, just use that with no tip on the end. Otherwise, just cut a hole in the corner of a ziploc bag and fill with icing. Pipe all the way around the outside of the cake, then fill with mango curd. Top with the second layer, then repeat. The icing holds the mango curd in, so when you cover the cake, it won’t get in the way!


After you have filled both layers, top with the final layer of cake. Cover with remaining buttercream. Decorate as desired (don’t you think the Peeps complete if perfectly for Easter?). This cake is best stored in the refrigerator. So, a lot of steps…but wroth every bite, I promise! Now, you could go out and buy a pound cake, some pre-made lemon curd and a can of frosting and make your own version, but that might make my heart die a little. IMG_0893

Dirt cake recipe will follow, I promise! Now, I have shared all of my Easter Eating confessions with you. What was the most delicious/decadent thing you made and/or ate over the Easter weekend? Don’t hold back on me!

Friday, Faspa, Fun

23 Apr

Most of you are probably reading this title and wondering, “what on earth is faspa?” Well, according to this article, faspa is “a low-German, Mennonite term used for a typical late afternoon lunch that for generations has been served in Mennonite homes.” My Dad’s family is both German and Mennonite, so faspa was a concept we grew up with….it was typically a Sunday night meal after a big Sunday night lunch.

This year, my grandma opted for a Good Friday faspa get together instead of a big Easter dinner (the whole family will get together in a few weeks anyway for my grandpa’s 85th birthday, which I will sadly miss because I’ll be in Vegas).IMG_0858

What do you eat at faspa? Glad you asked! Here’s my plate: cold ham and salami, potato salad (lots of mayo, lots of eggs), marshmallow salad (with oranges, pineapple and coconut), paska (a special sweet yeast bread with dried fruit and icing that is ONLY made at Easter….so that makes it ok to have 3 pieces in one sitting, right?) and grammy buns (the two buns in the background….that’s a nickname that our family has given them). Wish I could say that was all that I wait, but I had second helpings of almost everything! Embarrassed smile….80/20, right?

So after faspa, there was an “after party” (not at all in the traditional sense of that term). My grandma’s get-together conflicted with my Aunt hosting her family, so my aunt and uncle and cousins and their adorable, fun kids weren’t at fospa Sad smile, but we were invited to stop by after the fact, which we did. My little cousins (ages ranging from 1.5 to 8) are so much fun, and it was great to catch up with their parents. I also ate more chocolate eggs than I choose to admitEmbarrassed smile (let’s just say there were 3 different kinds of eggs….your basic foil-covered chocolate ones, Lindor eggs and mini eggs….and I ate more than one of each kind) and an absolutely delicious, rich fudge-y square of some sort…I certainly did not need any of it, but Easter only comes once a year, right? Winking smileIMG_0852

On the plus side, I started my day with an 8 mile run (went pretty well, finished my audiobook, got out before church and got it done). I also had a healthy lunch (portabello and goat cheese panini and kale chips….classic). I did try new seasonings on the chips though: mix of garlic salt, cumin and smoked paprika – winning!

Another food and fun-related event that happened yesterday? Making these guys! You are looking at peanut butter cake and cupcakes with Skor on top…oh yeah! IMG_0857And the cupcakes are in Star Wars cupcake papers and toppers. My friend is having a family dinner for her husband’s birthday today, but doesn’t have a full oven at her apartment, and knows how much I love to bake, so she asked me to help make the cake/cupcakes for the big event….of course, I was only too happy to oblige. Winking smileMmmm…..this combo is so dangerously delicious, it’s a good thing these left the house right away! Of course, I had to sample the batter and icing and Skor pieces, just to make sure everything was ok, right? And one cake wasn’t quite flat, so we had to cut off the top….we had trouble figuring out what to do with it, but we managed to get rid of that excess cake somehow….any ideas what we did? Winking smile

So, if you were looking for healthy eating inspiration today, sorry, you’re out of luck! Yesterday (and really, most of this weekend, let’s be honest) aren’t going to be banner days in terms of self-control and healthfulness….but that’s what a healthy lifestyle is all about….healthy eating and good habits most of the time, so days like these don’t derail my efforts to achieve a healthy balance. And starting the day with a long run doesn’t hurt either!

Before I sign off, one thing to share. I thought this was a really good post, called Lessons in Self-Love from Oh She Glows. Self-confidence and acceptance are still things I struggle with and I’m learning to live with myself and love the skin I’m in, so I need all the inspiration I can get. Hope this article inspires you too!

How is your Easter weekend so far? Enjoying the time off? Any notable food splurges? I’m looking forward to Sunday’s cold ham dinner! Smile