Monday, December 22, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins, Maltese Style

One holiday down, one to go.
Happy New Year!!

Everybody is still a bit full from enjoying the fantastic traditional Christmas feast.
But you do need to have something to serve as you watch the big ball coming down.

Pumpkin is a popular ingredient in Maltese cooking, especially in vegetable soups.
Now’s the time for simple finger food items that don’t need to be cut and served.
Ma's Pumpkin Pie is delicious but not exactly finger food.

Have about a cup of leftover pumpkin puree in the fridge?
That’s perfect for mini cheesecakes.
Waste not, want not!


Check cheesecake doneness by gently shaking the pan. 
If the cheesecake is done, it will be set except in the centre that will be soft. 
Do not insert a knife into the centre.  
This may make the cheesecake crack during cooling. 

If you’d rather make Ma’s Pumpkin Cheesecake and cut it to serve as small dainties, just do the following:
Line the 9x13-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over sides. 
Prepare the cheesecake batters, then spoon into the prepared pan and swirl. 
Bake in a 350°F oven 45 minutes or until centre is almost set. 
Cool completely. Refrigerate 4 hours. 
Use foil handles to lift cheesecake from pan before cutting to serve.

                        Mini Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins

grease (or paper line) 16 medium-sized muffin cups
Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven.
preheat oven to 325º 

Serves 16

The Crust

Combine in a medium bowl
1 Cup graham wafer crumbs
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
9  Tablespoons margarine, melted
Stir until mixed.
Press the mixture over the bottom of the prepared cups.
Set aside.

The Filling

2 large eggs
place the whites in a small mixer bowl and reserve the yolks 
Whip the whites until soft peaks form.

Place in a large mixer bowl
2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 Cup sugar
3 Tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Beat at slow speed until smooth.
1 teaspoon vanilla
the 2 reserved egg yolks
10 ounces pumpkin (canned or cooked and pureed)
Mix well.
Gently fold in the beaten egg whites until just blended.
Spoon the pumpkin filling into the prepared cups. 
Bake for 30 minutes.
The muffins should be set around the edges, with a slightly soft centre.
Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack 30 minutes.
Refrigerate at least 3 hours.

About an hour before serving remove the mini cakes from the refrigerator.
Run a knife around the edge of the cups and remove the mini cakes.
Garnish with 
whipped cream
Sprinkle with
nutmeg (optional)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Anna Sultana’s Cinnamon Roll Cake

A friend has just called and wants to drop by with a small gift.
She’s a dear and will probably stay for lunch.
You’re both dieting, so something light… 
No problem.
But then there’s dessert.

You have cakes all ready for Christmas.
But who wants to cut a slice out of them before the big day?

You’re not one to take foodie type pictures.
But then there’s that niece who can’t leave her cell phone home.
She’ll take a picture of your obviously used cake.

Time to whip up something quick… easy… cheap… but tasty.
Ma’s Cinnamon Roll Cake is perfect as a quickie dessert.
It has a rich flavour to it, so a little slice will go a long way.
Leaving you some cake to slice and add to the dainties platter.


If you’d like less cinnamon, fine.
You can also combine the cinnamon with allspice or nutmeg for more of a kick.

If you’d rather use oil in the cake, substitute 3 ounces oil for the 1/2 Cup butter.
You could do the same for the topping, but it’ll lose a little something in flavour.
But then some people don’t care for a buttery taste.
Takes all kinds and ’tis the season to put up with quirks.

                        Cinnamon Roll Cake

For the Topping
In a small bowl combine
1 Cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1 to 2 Tablespoons cinnamon
Cut in
1 Cup butter, softened
You’ll want to have something that looks like a crumb topping.
After it’s been baked it will be like a sauce.
Set aside.

For the Cake

Preheat oven to 350º F
Grease a 9×13 inch pan

In a medium bowl combine
3 Cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Cup sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 Cups milk 
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 Cup butter, melted
Mix the liquids in just until done.
Pour the batter into the prepared 9×13 baking pan.
Drop the topping crumbs evenly over the batter.
Swirl the crumbs in with a knife. 
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
The cake should be a golden brown.
A toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean.
Place the pan on a wire rack.

For the Glaze
Prepare while the cake is baking.
In a medium bowl combine
2 Cups Confectioners’ sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
5 Tablespoons milk 
Stir together to make a runny glaze. 
Add more milk if needed.
While the cake is warm drizzle the glaze over the cake.

If you’d like to make a cake that has cinnamon but isn’t as gooey,
It has a crumb topping, and the recipe calls for sour cream and chopped nuts.
But it bakes for an hour.

It’s good, but nothing’s perfect.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Muriel’s Christmas Dinner by Margaret Ullrich

This was a holiday piece I wrote a few years ago for the CKUW radio show ‘2000 & Counting’.  
Being politically correct - and politically sensitive - was and is a part of menu planning.

The family that eats a holiday dinner together… can still be in for a whole lot of trouble.

My friend Muriel still hasn't recovered from last Christmas. 

The poor dear had tried to please everybody. Solomon couldn't have pulled that off. Muriel was willing to go with the flow, but she was caught in a tsunami. Her husband Tom is a simple man with simple tastes. He just wanted a roasted bird with stuffing and cranberry sauce. 

He should never have had children.

Their eldest daughter, Donna, keeps up with trends. Muriel had asked Donna to bring the appetizers. Muriel expected their traditional celery sticks with cream cheese, crackers and cheese cubes. Donna waltzed in with an oriental party pack and assorted seafood and chicken wing platters. Something for everyone. Uh, huh. 
Tom backed off when he saw the eggrolls. "I don't like Chinese."
Donna said, "I got you BBQ chicken wings."
Ignoring her, Tom said, "They don't serve bread." He went to the kitchen for bread.

Then Betty arrived. Betty lives in a commune and supports the rights of everything and everybody… except those of the hostess. Betty always carried tofu because she never ate dairy products or anything with eyes or eggs. Muriel had prepared a nice salad for Betty. Not good enough.
"Were the pickers paid a decent wage?"
"The lettuce had a union label."
"I only eat organically grown food. Did they use manure."
"We had to scrub the carrots with bleach to get the E coli off."
"Oh... okay."
Tom heard E coli and reached for another slice of bread.

Finally their son Bill arrived with his wife Carol and their children, Krystal and Jason. Bill and Carol had every allergy in the book. Bill also had high cholesterol and Carol had her waistline. They avoided the platters of appetizers and drank the water that they had brought. 

Krystal, a tender-hearted child, burst into tears when she saw the chicken wings.
"Oh, those poor birdies. Do you know how they treat chickens, Grandma?"

Muriel figured the birds were better off than she was. They never had to make a holiday dinner for the family. But this was her granddaughter.
"Krystal, dear, these birdies lived in a happy place where they laughed and played and sang songs for a long, long time. Then one day they just went to sleep and woke up as chicken wings.  They were so happy they jumped onto the barbecue."
"Oh... okay."
Who says the next generation knows it all? 
Tom heard Muriel's tale of the laughing, singing chickens with the kamikaze wings, figured she'd finally lost it, and ate more bread.

Ignored by his elders, Jason gobbled a fistful of seafood appetizers and started wheezing. Muriel packed away the appetizers before her children could start a food fight and led them to the main event.

The table looked like a sailboat regatta that had been designed by Martha Stewart. Every dish had a tiny flag listing all of the ingredients. Muriel did not want to have to call the paramedics again. Krystal cried when she saw the turkey. 

When Betty reached for the potatoes, Bill said, "But they have eyes". Betty meant to kick her brother, but got her sister-in-law, Carol, who screamed and kicked back. Muriel yelled at her kids. The holiday dinner was just like always. Damn.

After everyone had eaten what they could, Muriel brought out a carafe of hot cranberry apple cider. This was her gift to herself. Seeing all the different coffees at the supermarket had made her go all woozie. Whatever happened to plain old coffee, black or with cream? Muriel’s children didn't say a word while visions of cappuccinos, espressos and lattes danced in their heads.

Betty was in charge of the dessert. She had created something that was just what the doctor ordered. No eggs, no cream, no butter, and no taste. 
Tom just saw a pumpkin pie and it looked fine. He helped himself to a slice, smiled and thought that Betty was returning to the food of her mother. 
But, something tasted... off. Maybe a new spice?
"Betty, what's in this pie," he asked.
"Geez." Tom reached for the bread. 

Jason had wheezed throughout the whole meal. 
All in all, it had been just another family holiday get together. 
God help Muriel. The holidays are back.

About Sunday night’s new moon in Capricorn…
According to the folks at

The Sun's entrance into this earthy sign on December 21 marks the Winter Solstice. 
The new Moon makes for the perfect day to plan your New Year's resolutions!  During this magical day, reflect on where you've been and where you're headed. Do you know what you'd like to achieve in the year ahead? Set your sights high as you put together a plan. If you take the first step, you'll be amazed at what you'll be able to achieve by the time the Sun enters Aquarius on January 20!

The year's final major astrological transit on December 23 is also the biggest astrological news of the month: Saturn saunters into Sagittarius for a major emotional overhaul. As it meanders through Sagittarius for the next three years, the overall mood and atmosphere will be less impassioned and more thoughtful.

Uranus turns direct on December 21, which is sure to bring plenty of changes.
Even in the midst of an unpredictable environment, count your blessings!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Anna Sultana's Christmas Cookies, Maltese Style

Christmas Cookies!!
Perfect when you want something light to finish off a holiday meal.
Or to serve with a cup of coffee or tea when someone just drops by.

They also make a never fail Christmas gift.
Just place a few on a paper plate, wrap with saran wrap and smile.


If you prefer you can shape the cookies in this way:
Cut a small piece and, by hand, roll it into a thin, long strip about 1/4 inch thick.
Cut the strip into sections about 1 inch long.
Connect the two ends by pressing them together with your fingers.

Or you can roll it in your hands to form a log and then twirl it into shape. 

                              Christmas Cookies

Makes about 3 dozen cookies


Grease 3 large cookie sheets

In a medium bowl sift together
3 1/2 Cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder

In a large bowl place
1 Cup sugar
1/2 Cup butter
Mix at medium speed until light and fluffy.
Beat in, one at a time
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
Gradually add
the flour / baking powder mixture.
Mix at a low speed until the dough is firm. 
Knead and if necessary add flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.
Pinch off about a tablespoonful of dough.
Roll it into a ball and place it on a greased cookie sheet. 
Repeat with the remaining dough and place them on the cookie sheets.

Preheat oven to 375º F
Bake cookies 10 minutes until lightly golden.
Let cool on the pans 5 minutes.
Transfer to wire racks and cool completely.


Combine in a medium bowl
2 Cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
6 teaspoons water
Stir until creamy.

Place wax paper under the wire racks to collect the dripping icing.
Dip the cookies into the icing and place them on the wire rack.
Repeat the process for the remaining cookies.

Before serving sprinkle over the cookies
coloured sprinkles