Custard for Christmas

I love rice pudding with real whipped cream and a maraschino cherry. Traditionally it would also be topped with almonds.

Rice Pudding - it's not just for grandma anymore!  

According to Wikipedia, rice pudding is a tradition in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.  Specifically in Denmark, the pudding is used two times during Christmas.  On December 23rd, rice pudding is served warm for dinner.  Leftovers are mixed with whipped cream, vanilla, almonds, and drizzled with cherry sauce and served cold for dessert after Christmas dinner.  The name of this dessert is Risalamande.

An almond is hidden in the pudding and the person who finds it gets a small prize.  Apparently, this person is supposed to hide that they have found it as long as possible, causing everyone else to eat all of their pudding in search of the almond!

I have "kitsched-up" this recipe by using brown rice instead of white, and suggesting that you use a combination of liquids such as cream, milk, sweetened evaporated milk, or even egg nog. Adding a little light molasses also adds to the darker color and creamy goodness.   I like the thickness of brown rice and using other liquids makes the pudding caramel-y and delish!

This recipe has been adapted from my mother's Betty Crocker's Cookbook:





Brown Rice Pudding                                                               

*The secret to making this pudding delicious is to boil the rice in milk.  It really softens it up nicely.

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Butter a 1.5 quart casserole dish.  Prepare a pan for a water bath for the casserole.


2 cups brown rice, cooked per package directions in milk. (3 1/2 cups milk)

1/2 cup sugar

1 T light molasses

Dash of salt

2 eggs

2 1/2 cups of milk (can  be a combo of cream, egg nog, milk or sweetened    condensed milk)

1 T lemon juice plus one lemon rind, grated

1 t vanilla or almond flavoring

1 t nutmeg plus more to sprinkle on top

1/2 cup raisins ( or craisins or dried cherries )

1/2 cup chopped almonds for serving plus one whole almond hidden in the cooked pudding. 

Whipped cream, maraschino cherries or cherry sauce for serving                                                                            


Mix 1/2 cup sugar, salt, nutmeg and beat in eggs and milk with mixer.  Stir in rice, lemon juice, lemon rind, molasses, flavoring and raisins.  Pour into buttered casserole.  Put one whole almond in the pudding and sprinkle the top with nutmeg.

 Place casserole in water bath on oven rack (pour hot water into the pan about an inch deep).

Bake about 1 1/2 hours until pudding is creamy, light brown around the edges, and a knife comes out clean when stuck in the middle of the pudding.

Remove the casserole from the oven but leave the hot water bath to cool before removing it from the oven.  Cool before serving.

Top with whipped cream, maraschino cherries or cherry sauce  and chopped almonds.

Serves 12-16





  • Cook your brown rice in milk to make this pudding super creamy.

  • A brown, caramel-y, volcanic rice pudding right out of the oven.

Bread pudding - sweet and savory

It's all about the rum sauce.

I love bread pudding.  I have had it in many different places with many different sauces, but I love sweet bread pudding with warm rum sauce the best.  Since I don't like cooked raisins, I always substitute dried cherries.  They give it a very decadent taste.  This Bread Pudding with Hot Buttered Rum Sauce is from and is simple to make but doesn't taste simple at all!

Bread Pudding with Hot Buttered Rum Sauce

Pinch of Yum, adapted from Neely's Rum Raisin Bread Pudding


For the pudding:

7-8 cups torn or cubed French bread

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

3 cups milk

4 T butter

1 t cinnamon

1 t vanilla

2/3 cups raisins (or craisins or dried cherries)

1/4 cup rum

4 beaten eggs

For the sauce:

1/3 cup heavy cream

1 cup white sugar

1/2 cup butter

2 T rum


1.  Preheat oven to 350 F and butter a 9 inch baking dish.

2.  Cut or tear bread into pieces and place in a large bowl.  In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt brown sugar, milk, butter, cinnamon, vanilla, raisins, and 1/4 cup rum.  Stir constantly until sugar is dissolved.  Pour over bread and allow to soak for 30 minutes.  Be sure all the bread is covered.

3.   Add 4 beaten eggs to the soaked bread mixture and stir gently.  The bread should be completely saturated with the egg and milk mixture. Pour into a buttered 9-inch square baking dish and bake for 40-50 minutes until the top is browned and the middle is set.  Do not overbake or the bread pudding will become dry.

4.  For the sauce, melt the heavy cream, white sugar and butter in a medium saucepan over low-medium heat.  Do not boil or the mixture will crystallize.  It will take several minutes for the sugar to dissolve - taste the mixture as you are stirring it until you cannot detect any sugar grains.  When the sugar has dissolved add 1 1/2 T rum.  Pour the warm sauce over each slice of bread pudding before serving.    





  • I like to use sourdough bread for the pudding to give it an extra kick.

  • Dried cherries give it a burst of flavor when you bite into them.

Savory Bread Pudding for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This cheesey, meaty pudding is true holiday comfort food.

  • This recipe is adapted from The original is called Savory Bread Pudding with Bacon, Kale, and Rosemary.

    I didn't feel like putting bacon in this dish, so I substituted sausage. I think it would be great with bacon. I also used bagged kale that was pre-cut and had some slivers of cabbage and carrot in it. So much easier!!

    Preheat oven to 350F
    I used a cast iron skillet to cook this in.

    -1 T olive oil
    -4 slices of thick bacon, chopped
    -1 pkg of prepared salad kale
    -salt and pepper to taste
    -2 T crushed red pepper flakes
    -6 large eggs
    -1 3/4 cup milk
    -3/4 lb of French bread -
    I almost used all of a large loaf - 5 cups or so
    -1/2 cup grated parmesan
    -1/4 cup shredded fontina cheese
    -1 T fresh chopped rosemary

  • The kale adds a pop of color to this hearty dish.

    1. Add olive oil to skillet over medium heat.
    2. Add bacon and cook until brown. Add chopped kale and season with salt and pepper. Cook until kale is tender and slightly wilted.
    3. In a large bowl whisk together red pepper flakes, eggs, milk, 2 t salt and 1 t pepper. Add cooked kale and bacon mixture, chopped rosemary, and both cheeses. Toss to combine and coat all bread with egg mixture.
    4. Transfer mixture to a 10 inch skillet or 9 inch baking dish. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the top layer is toasty and the pudding is set in the center and bubbling. Serve warm with additional parmesan cheese.

I'm dreaming of some white cookies...

Chocolate dipped anyone?

Danish Anise and Mexican Wedding Cookies

I really don't enjoy most Christmas cookies.  I think they all tend to taste alike... except for the gingerbread ones of course.  These two have unique tastes - one that I remembered for 20 years before I actually had them again.  A family friend, who was always cooking interesting recipes when we were little, used to make the anise cookies and I remember being fascinated with their hard, buttery crispness and the pop of flavor from the anise seeds and lemon rind.  As an adult I found a Springerle cookie roller and the memory of those cookies came right back to me.  I later found the recipe in a special book of recipes that our friend had made my mother. 



Photo from
Springerle cookies are traditionally made in Bavaria and Austria. They typically contain anise seed or oil and are cut using a springerle cookie roller.

  • I use double the amount of anise seed in these cookies just because I can!

  • My springerle roller is like the one in the large picture above. The images from the roller, however, will not stay on the cookies unless they are allowed to dry overnight, which makes them harder once they are cooked.

    Danish Anise Cookies
    1 3/4 cup butter
    2 cups sugar
    1 egg
    2 T anise seed
    1 T lemon flavoring
    1 T grated lemon rind
    2 T baking powder
    6 cups flour

  • Anise cookies dipped in chocolate - licorice and chocolate go well together!

    1. Cream the butter and sugar. Add the egg, anise, lemon flavoring and rind, and mix until smooth.
    2. Mix by hand or with a mixer-
    add baking powder and flour one cup at a time.
    3. Cover dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
    4. Remove from fridge. Form dough into a ball and roll on lightly floured surface. Cookies should be about 1/2 inch thick. Use springerle roller or a sharp knife to cut into rectangles.
    5. Bake cookies on a parchment covered baking sheet for 10 minutes or until they just begin to brown.

Dipping Chocolate

Everything is better dipped in chocolate.

Since I enjoy chocolate, and dippng various foods in it, I have had some experience with melting it and combining various kinds of chocolate.  My advice for a simple dip that will actually harden but not crack is to use dark chocolate chips (about 1/2 cup) with a little cream (3 Tablespoons or so).  Use a glass bowl and heat it in the microwave for one minute.  Take it out and stir - put back in for 20 second intervals until it is melted and mixed. 

If you take it out of the microwave and it has gotten too hot you will know it because it will separate.  Keep stirring and adding small amounts of cream until it becomes shiny and smooth like the picture.  After you have dipped the cookies, put them back on the parchment sheet and refrigerate them for an hour or so before serving.

Mexican Wedding Cookies

My antique nut grinder works well when chopping small amounts. I chose to use pecans in these cookies but walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, or even macadamia nuts would taste great.

These cookies are simple and delicious.  They can be shaped into balls, crescents, or used as thumbprint cookies with a dab of preserves in the thumbprint.  This recipe is also from our family friend's recipe book.




Preheat oven to 350 F


1/2 cup softened butter

1/4 cup powdered sugar

1 cup sifted flour

1/2 cup chopped nuts

1 T vanilla





1.  Cream butter and sugar until smooth.  Add vanilla.

2.  Mix in flour and nuts.

3.  Shape into small balls or crescents or flatten balls with your thumb.

4.  Bake cookies on a parchment covered cookie sheet for 10 minutes. They     will not brown.  Do not overcook or they will become dry.

5.  Sift powdered sugar over hot cookies on pan.  If you have created thumbprint cookies remove them from the sheet to cool.  Once they have cooled fill the thumbprint with preserves and then sift powdered sugar over the top.  Refrigerate.



























A hand sifter is an important tool to have for cookie and cake decorating.

Powdered sugar adds a delicate sweetness to these nutty cookies.

Cheesy Christmas goodness

Homemade ricotta recipe from The Costco Connection magazine a few years back.


Homemade Ricotta

Cheese, or soft cheese, is relatively easy to make.  All you need is milk, cream, and an acid like lemon juice or vinegar.  Ricotta is a bland, creamy cheese, but can be easily flavored to be savory or sweet.  I like to add smoked salts and herbs to make it savory or brandied cherry juice to make it pink and sweet.  A quick search on the internet will turn up dozens of ways to use ricotta.  Some people spread it on sandwiches, others use it instead of cheese on pizza.  It can be the star mixed with herbs and garlic on top of bruschetta.  However you use it, you will enjoy the process of making it!




4 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon kosher salt (or flavored salt)

3 T good white wine vinegar (I used lemon flavored balsamic vinegar and had to use quite a bit more than 3 T to get the cheese to curdle)


1.  Set a large sieve over a deep bowl.  A fine metal one would work best. Dampen 2 layers of cheesecloth with water and line the sieve with the cheesecloth.

2.  Pour the milk and cream into a stainless steel or enameled pot.  Stir in the salt.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar.

3.  Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles.  It will separate into thicker parts (curds) and clear milky parts (whey).  I had to add more vinegar and I let it sit in the pot - cooling - for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until I felt it had separated enough.

4.  Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined sieve and allow it to drain into the bowl at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.  Depending on the size of the sieve holes it may take longer.  Pour off the whey collected in the bottom so that it is not touching the bottom of the sieve.  If you plan on using the whey put it in an airtight container and refrigerate.

5.  Tranfer the ricotta to an airtight container and refrigerate.  It will keep refrigerated for a week.  Makes about 2 cups.

  • Ricotta cheese - separating the curds and whey

  • Collect and refrigerate the whey. It is the protein from the milk and is great used in bread making to substitute for the liquid and salt.

    Here is a great baked ricotta appetizer from It is called:
    Baked Ricotta: The Best Appetizer You Haven't Met Yet. This dish is taken from Anne Burrell's cookbook entitled Cook Like a Rock Star.

    2 cups ricotta
    1 clove garlic - minced
    1 T finely chopped rosemary
    1 lemon - zest only
    3 T olive oil, plus some on top for finishing
    1 pinch red pepper flakes
    1 pinch salt and pepper

    1. In a large bowl mix ricotta with minced herbs,
    garlic, red pepper flakes, lemon zest and olive oil.
    2. Spoon mixture into buttered baking dish and bake for 15-20 minutes. The top should be lightly browned on top.
    3. Top with a splash of olive oil and serve with crackers or bread.

  • An airtight glass container with a rubber gasket works well for storing the ricotta.

    Here is a recipe for Herbed Ricotta Bruschettas. It is also from the Costco magazine.

    2 cups ricotta
    3 T minced scallions
    2 T minced fresh dill
    1 T minced fresh chives
    Kosher salt and black pepper
    1 loaf sourdough bread
    olive oil
    1 garlic clove, cut in half

    1. Brush olive oil on bread slices and rub each with the garlic clove.
    Place under the broiler or grill until brown.
    2. Combine the ricotta, scallions, dill, chives, 1 t salt and 1/2 t pepper.
    3. Spread the bread with the ricotta mixture and sprinkle each slice with salt and pepper.

Crab dip - the other white cheese

Canned crab works well in this recipe but fresh would always be better. For the love of God, please don't use artificial in this dip!!

This is my aunt's recipe.  It must be served warm - best to be kept in a mini electric fondue pot.  Sterno often causes the bottom to burn.  It has a delicate mix of white wine, crab, and creamy cheese - and yes, it does have a pinch of powdered sugar in it.

Crab Dip


3 lg. packages softened cream cheese

2 cans crab meat

1 clove garlic - minced

1/2 cup mayonnaise (I used olive oil and cracked pepper mayo)

2 t powdered sugar

2 t powdered mustard

1/4 cup white wine

salt and pepper to taste


1.  In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients and heat through, stirring, on low heat.

2.  Warm the mixture being careful not to let it boil.  It is thick and will pop and might burn you.

3.  Cool and refrigerate until served warm in a fondue pot.  Serve with crackers or bread.


  • Stir the crab dip on low heat until it is warmed through and smooth.

  • Heart shaped crackers are fun!

Swedish Limpa Bread - the best toast you've had in a long time!
Photo from

Swedish Limpa Bread

Sliced limpa
Photo from

One of my relatives, who happened to be very in-tune with his Swedish heritage, used to bake this bread every Christmas.  The rye, anise, and orange in this recipe combine to make a flavorful bread that can stand up to toasting and any number of toppings.  In Sweden it is called Vortlimpa and was originally made from the fermented brewer's wort produced in beer making. 

Swedish Limpa Bread

Recipe from


1 3/4 cups orange juice

1/4 cup butter

1/3 cup dark molasses

1/4 cup dark brown sugar

1 t fennel seeds

1 t caraway seeds

1 t anise seeds

1 pkg. active dry yeast

1 T salt

2 T grated orange zest

2 1/2 cups medium rye flour

2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour



1.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees, turning off immediately once heated.

2.  In a small saucepan, combine orange juice, butter, molasses, brown sugar, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, and anise seeds.  Bring to a low boil and maintain for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool until mixture is lukewarm.

3.  Once liquid spice mixture is warm, but not hot to the touch, whisk in active dry yeast, salt, and grated orange peel.

4.  Place liquid in mixing bowl and gradually stir in 2 1/2 cups rye flour.  Continue to add in 2 to 3 cups of flour until dough is soft and pliable (it will be slightly sticky).

5.  Let dough rest for 20 minutes.

6.  Either by hand or with the dough hook on your mixer, knead dough lightly, for about 5 minutes, until dough is stiff ad smooth.

7.  Place dough in greased bowl, flipping once to coat.  Cover bowl with a clean towel.  Place in the warmed oven, and let rise until double, about 1 hour.

8.  After dough is risen, punch down, divide into 2 halves, and shape into 2 round loaves.  Place loaves on lightly floured baking pan.

9.  Cover with a towel and let loaves rise on the counter until doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

10. Preheat oven to 375 F.  When loaves have risen, place in the oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until they are dark, crusty, and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.