Household Notes April 2014

Tastes of spring, And a toast to the season 

Edited by Anne Gray

            We have a great selection of recipes this issue. I particularly love them for their ease and simplicity. Yet every recipe here would fit perfectly on the most elegant dining table. Enjoy these recipes, eat well, and raise a glass to spring. 

            Happy rhubarb season!


Kathy Wilson, Lorne, N.S.

            “We love asparagus and are constantly snacking on the raw tender shoots while we work in garden.”


6 ounces lean cooked ham

1/2 cup light cream

3 ounces milk

3 eggs

1 ounce cheddar cheese

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

12 asparagus tips, cooked and drained

            Preheat the oven to 400°F. Chop the ham fine and grate the cheese. Put the pastry in a nine-inch pan. Spread the chopped ham evenly over the pastry and set aside.

            In a medium sized bowl, combine the cream, milk, eggs, grated cheese, salt, and pepper and beat well to blend. Pour over the ham. Arrange the asparagus in a pattern around the top from the centre out to the edge. 

            This makes a perfect dish for everyday or for entertaining.


Kathy Wilson, Lorne, N.S.

            “I always knew when spring was really here. My mother would produce the first sweet, tender, and flaky rhubarb pie. Rhubarb is not just for dessert anymore.  It is wonderful with any meat, especially pork or chicken, and it can replace apples in any recipe. 

2 cups finely chopped rhubarb

2 cups finely chopped onion

2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar

1 cup vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice 

1/4 teaspoon cloves

1/4 teaspoon pepper

            Put all the ingredients in a pot and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes or until thickened. Stir occasionally. Cool and store in a sterilized container in the refrigerator. Makes about three and one-half cups. This relish will keep for three months. Heat process for 10 minutes if you plan to keep it longer.


Kathy Wilson, Lorne, N.S.

            “The first radishes of the season are such a treat. We make these radish sandwiches and serve them with tea.”

1 cup minced red radishes

1 teaspoon poppy seeds

1 cup soft cream cheese

1/2 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper

8 slices dark rye bread

1/2 English cucumber, sliced thinly

            In a mixing bowl, combine the radishes, poppy seeds, cream cheese, salt, and pepper. Blend well and let stand for a few minutes.

            Lightly butter the bread. Spread the radish filling on half the bread, top with the cucumber slices and remaining bread.

Cut into triangles and serve.

            This radish filling is also good in a wrap, as a topping for tiny new potatoes, or as a stuffing for celery.


            Bruce Blakemore sent a note saying: “Here are a couple of recipes that might qualify as ‘celebratory.’” We agree. I think it’s time to go bake a cake, just so I can try this frosting.


Bruce Blakemore, Purgatory Point, N.S.

from Wine Spectator, 2002

            “Most years my husband and I manage to make birthday cakes for each other. He always makes Chocolate Cake Cockaigne from the old ‘Joy of Cooking’ and I usually make 1234 Cake from Marie Nightingale’s ‘Out of Old Nova Scotia Kitchens.’ Frosting has been problematic until a few years ago when I was fortuitously sorting through some old Wine Spectator magazines just as he was contemplating icing. The particular magazine issue was devoted to chocolate and wine and this wonderful and easy recipe was included.”

5 ounces bittersweet chocolate

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon cognac or rum or Grand Marnier or your choice (optional)

             Finely chop the chocolate. Bring the cream to a simmer over medium heat (do not let it boil). Remove from heat and add the chocolate.

            Cover and let stand one minute, then whisk till smooth. Whisk in a flavoring of choice.

            It can be spread on the cake right away but will be slightly runny. Refrigerate about 30 minutes to set it.

            It should be served at room temperature.


Patsy Ludwick, Gabriola Island, B.C.,

via Bruce Blakemore, Purgatory

Point, N.S.

            “I had this recipe from a friend a long time before I tried it. What inspired me was locally grown Sweet potatoes showing up in some vegetable stands on Nova Scotia’s south shore last fall. I am thinking that it might accompany an Easter ham. Then again it might be good with Thanksgiving turkey.”

2 pounds Sweet potatoes 

1 large red onion

1 cup fresh cranberries

1/4 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

2 teaspoons grated lime zest



            Steam the potatoes until just tender, about 40 minutes. Peel and chop them when they are cool enough to handle.

            Slice the onion, then add the slices to the cranberries. Chop the cranberries if  they are large. Mix the mayonnaise with the lime juice and zest, season with salt and pepper.

            Toss the dressing with potato-berry mix. Serve warm or cold.





Hilly van Loon, South Newfane, Vt.

            “Cuban bread is the easiest and quickest ever – good in a pinch, but just plain good. (My daughter) Deborah is making it a lot now too. Here’s the recipe from Bernard Clayton’s ‘New Complete Book of Breads,’ (1987). I’ve heard of Cuban Water Bread but this one is just plain old Cuban Bread in Clayton’s book. I went online and there was a whole bunch of recipes for Cuban Water Bread, some of which didn’t resemble mine (called for lard and a preheated oven). So I would just stick with plain old Cuban Bread. Clayton’s recipe calls for all white flour, so my main departure from his recipe is the addition of whole wheat flour for about a quarter of the amount. Other less major changes I’ve made are one-quarter cup wheat germ for a nuttier flavor, and honey or maple syrup instead of sugar. This is a simple bread with so few ingredients – not much to alter. But these days, it’s nice to add something to give it more of a nutritional punch.”

5-6 cups bread or all-purpose flour 

2 packages dry yeast

1 tablespoon salt

2 tablespoons sugar

2 cups lukewarm water (he says “hot”)


            Mix all together and then dump out and knead for a while.
 Set to rise until double, this will take about 20 minutes. Punch down the dough, dump it out, and cut it into two pieces. Shape into rounds and place them on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal, or greased.
 With a sharp knife of razor, slash an X into the top of each loaf and brush or pat with cold water. You can then sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds. Put a large pan of hot water on the shelf below where you’ll bake the bread.
 Put the loaves into a cold oven and then turn the temperature to 400º F.
 Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the loaves are a deep golden brown.