Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Anna Sultana’s Milkless, Eggless, Butterless Cakes (Chocolate or Raisin) and Two-Egg Sponge Cake

Well, we’ve just gotten through about a month of living in quarantine.
To be honest, for many seniors in Manitoba staying home during early Spring is  just a regular part of our usual way of living.
During this time we have icy sidewalks, what with our usual freeze and thaw weather pattern.

But the shortages at the grocery store is becoming a bit unnerving.
Sometimes it calls for a bit of ingenuity in the kitchen before we can make dinner, or desserts.

Flour is a staple, but it can cause a problem if you run out.
Check the back of your cabinets.
If you have cake & pastry flour and the recipe calls for all-purpose flour, just add two tablespoons to each cup of cake and pastry flour.
If you have all-purpose flour and the recipe calls for cake & pastry flour, just remove two tablespoons from each cup of all-purpose flour.

I’m hoping that you've also got a bag of raisins just sitting on the shelves.
Depression Cake, also called Boiled Raisin Cake or War Cake, is a recipe that doesn’t call for milk, eggs or butter.
Neither does Ma’s Easy Raisin/Sultana Cake.
Got raisins? Got cake.

About the Chocolate Cake, when we're over the virus crisis:
Instead of the water you can use 1 Cup lukewarm sour milk or buttermilk.
Instead of the oil, you can use 1/2 Cup margarine, melted.

If you’ve got a tin of frosting, or feel like making some, it would be appreciated.
Chocolate Mocha Frosting

1 Tablespoon instant coffee
1/2 Cup hot water
Set aside.

In a medium mixer bowl cream
3/4 Cup Crisco
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup unsweetened cocoa
Making 3 dry and 2 liquid additions, add
4 1/2 Cups sifted icing sugar
Alternately with the prepared coffee.
Beat well until smooth.

You could split the cake to make it more like a layer cake.

                        Chocolate Cake

Grease an 8 inch square pan
Preheat oven to 350º F

Sift into a medium bowl
1 1/2 Cup flour
1 Cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cocoa
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 ounces oil 
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 Cup water
Mix well.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake 40 minutes.
Insert a toothpick to test the cake to be sure it's done.
Place the cake in the pan on a rack.
Allow it to cool for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a platter.

                        Two-Egg Sponge Cake

Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan
Preheat oven to 325º F
Note: This cake batter is thin.

Place in medium bowl
1 Cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Blend together and set aside.

Heat but do not boil
1/2 Cup milk

In a mixing bowl beat thoroughly at medium speed
2 large eggs
Slowly add
3/4 cup sugar
Continue beating for another five minutes.
Gradually add
3 Tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Make 3 dry (the flour) and 2 liquid (the milk) additions to the egg mixture.
Mix lightly, only enough to blend well.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake 30 minutes.
Insert a toothpick to test the cake to be sure it's done.
Place the cake in the pan on a rack.
Allow it to cool for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a platter.

Friday, April 10, 2020

A Traditional Family Easter by Margaret Ullrich

I had originally written the following story for my radio show ‘2000 & Counting’. 

In 2007 it was published in 'A/cross sections : new Manitoba writing', which was edited by Katharine Bitney and Andris Taskans, and published by the Manitoba Writers Guild.  

The book is still in the Winnipeg library system, adult nonfiction section.  Check it out.  You'll find lots of stories and poems by other Manitoba writers in it.

Why am I always writing about food?

A Traditional Family Easter by Margaret Ullrich 

    I made a loaf of soda bread to serve with the corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day.  I don’t know why I did it.  I’m Maltese.  My husband is German/Swedish.  Not a single Irish person among our ancestors.  Then, on March nineteenth, I made a lasagna and cream puffs for St. Joseph.  I’d be twenty pounds lighter if I just ignored holidays.

    Yeah, right, like that’ll ever happen.     

    I’m a sucker for holiday traditions.  And, just like Christmas, Lent and Easter are loaded with holiday traditions.  Lent is the time to really clean the house.  Ah, spring cleaning.  Scrub and wax the floors, wash the windows and launder the curtains.  Everything from cellar to attic is glowing.  After being sealed in tighter than a drum all winter who could argue with giving the house a good cleaning?

    Lent is also a time to cut back on the calories.  Let’s be honest.  Who doesn’t want to drop the pounds gained during December?  Between the fasting and the exercise we get from cleaning house, we’re almost able to fit into the clothes we wore before Christmas.  Alleluia!!  Religion can be good for the body as well as the soul.  

    And then there’s Easter, when Christians celebrate Christ’s Resurrection.  We attend church in new outfits.  Little boys in little suits and little girls in fluffy dresses and shiny white patent leather shoes make families look like Hallmark cards.  

    Easter has more customs than the Bunny has eggs.  A popular tradition is to gather together and share a feast.  Over the centuries women have made this a glorious occasion with beautifully decorated eggs, colourful coffee cakes and traditional breads.

    According to tradition, an angel appeared to Mary to tell her that Jesus would arise on Easter.  To show her joy, Mary baked bread to share with her friends.  And to make the loaf more special, she put an egg, a symbol of life, on the top.  Now, I have to admit I don’t know what I’d do if someone told me that a recently deceased relative was rising from the dead.  I guess baking bread is as good a thing to do as any.  The only problem is that over the past two millennia something got lost in translation as that bread recipe went from country to country.

    And that’s when Easter went to hell in a bread basket.

    During my earliest years in Corona, a small town in Queens, New York, Easter was Italian.  Palm Sunday was the Day of the Olive.  Small blessed olive branches were offered as tokens of peacemaking.  For Easter breakfast we had Colomba di Pasqua.  Colomba is bread shaped to look like a dove, the symbol of peace, and covered with almond paste and almonds.  An Italian Easter dinner also had traditions.  First we had manicotti.  That was followed by a roasted whole baby lamb with a mixed salad, sauteed spinach and roasted artichokes.  For dessert there were cream tarts, cookies, spumoni, nuts and roasted chestnuts.  The adults had coffee.

    Then my parents moved to College Point, another small town in Queens, which had been settled by Irish and German families.  They had their own Easter customs.  Since Easter was not as commercial as Christmas, no one noticed when we followed our own customs. 

    When I was seven I had to follow what Ma told me were the Church’s rules during Lent.  I ate kwarezimal, an almond cookie that was topped with honey and chopped pistachio nuts.  Ma said we could eat it during Lent because it didn’t have any fat or eggs.  For Maundy Thursday Ma baked bread in the form of a ring.  Its top was crusted with sesame seeds and pierced with roasted almonds.  Our Easter dinner menu was the same as it had been in Corona.  But, instead of making a Colomba di Pasqua, Ma baked a figolli, a Maltese sweet bread with a marzipan filling.  

    A figolli was harder to make than a colomba.  The dough was rolled about one centimeter thick.  Then Ma cut the dough into pairs of figolla with a figolla cutter.  They looked like a large letter J, but the stick part ended in a fish’s tail.  On one side of a figolla Ma spread jam and marzipan.  Then she covered it with the identical shape, as if she was making a sandwich.  After the figolli had been baked and cooled, they were covered with colored icing and piped royal icing.  Then a decorated Easter egg was placed on top of each figolli.  For the final touch a cardboard woman’s face was inserted into the mound of the J.  

    The odd thing about Ma’s traditional figolli was that it was a mermaid.  I asked Ma why a mermaid and not a dove.  She said, “I don’t know.  It’s our tradition.”  

    Well, you can’t argue with tradition.

    In College Point, as Easter approached, the bakeries filled with cross buns, pretzels, braided almond loaves, Easter cookies and marzipan treats.  There were also large decorated sugar Easter eggs which had a hole in one end.  When we looked into the hole we could see tiny bunny villages.  There were also hot cross buns.  Ma knew about the cross buns.  Since Malta was part of the British Empire, Ma had eaten them in Malta, too.      

    We brought samples of our mothers’ holiday baking to school.  There were lots of pretzels.  Since they didn’t have fat or eggs, we could eat them during Lent without risking eternal damnation.  I liked the braided loaves which had been covered with almond paste.  They reminded me of colomba di Pasqua.  I brought some kwarezimal to school.  After I explained that the almond cookies didn’t have fat or eggs either, my friends agreed to try them.  

    Easter for my family was a simple celebration.  We went to church, wished everyone a “Happy Easter”, went home and ate our traditional foods.  There weren’t any problems until the year Ma’s brother Charlie married an American girl.  Aunt Liz wanted to learn more about Maltese customs.  Ma invited Charlie and Liz for Easter.  

    Pop told his oldest sister, Aunt Demi, that we had invited Charlie and Liz.  Aunt Demi was worried that our branch of the family was becoming too American.  So, Aunt Demi decided that she would come to dinner to make sure that Ma kept everything kosher.  

    Then Aunt Rita, one of my Sicilian Aunts, heard that we were inviting company for Easter.  Aunt Rita always took things personally.  She was insulted.  Why hadn’t she been invited, too?  Ma invited Aunt Rita, Uncle Tony and their children.  We had enough folding tables and chairs to seat everyone in the yard.  As long as it didn’t rain, Ma thought it would be a nice family dinner.

    Easter Sunday morning the sun was shining and the lamb was roasting on a spit in our yard.  The tables had been set.  Aunt Liz was taking notes and learning recipes.  She had brought a dozen cross buns and a jello mold.  The only thing missing was the centrepiece.  Aunt Demi had told Ma that she would bring a proper figolli.  

    It was the biggest figolli I’d ever seen.  The icing was as thick as my thumb.  While Aunt Demi was placing the Easter egg on her mermaid, Aunt Rita marched in and pulled a Colomba di Pasqua out of her tote bag.  The colomba had a three-foot wingspan.  There was barely room enough for one centrepiece.  

    Fish or fowl, which would Ma use? 

After forty days of fasting and scrubbing, Demi and Rita were lean, clean, Easter tradition machines.  Filled with the holiday spirit, they glared at each other.

    “What the hell is that?”  Aunt Demi spat.
    “It’s a dove, a symbol of peace, you idiot,” Aunt Rita shot back.  
    “It’s Easter.  We don’t need a damn dove.”
    “Throw that fish back in the sea.”  
    “The figolli is part of our tradition.”
    “Since when did Jesus swim with the fishes?”
    Waving a knife, Aunt Demi lunged.  “Give me that bread.  I’ll cut it up for sandwiches.”
    “Over my dead body.”
    “No problem.”

    My Aunt Liz was fascinated by her new in-laws.  She wrote down everything they said.  Maybe she thought the fight was part of our jolly ethnic holiday tradition.  I stayed close to Liz in case she didn’t have sense enough to duck.  

    Ma went back to the kitchen.  She knew she couldn’t reason with her sisters-in-law.  Her plan was to hide in the kitchen until the smoke cleared.  If they killed each other it would leave more food for the others.

    “Maria, get out here,” Aunt Demi yelled.  Ma came out.  The men and the younger children were nowhere in sight.  They were taking a walk to work up an appetite.  Demi and Rita were rolling up their sleeves.  Liz was taking notes.  
    “I went to all this trouble,” Aunt Rita whined.
    Aunt Demi barked, “Tell this idiot we are using the figolli.”
    “It took me forever to make this,” Aunt Rita whined again.
    Ma tried to be a good hostess.  “They’re so big.  We could put them on chairs near the table.”

    No luck.  The Aunts wanted her to choose one.
   Aunt Demi announced, “We are having a traditional Maltese Easter dinner.  With a traditional figolli.”
    “Do you think our Blessed Mother baked a mermaid?” Aunt Rita sneered.  
    Demi lunged.  Liz wrote.  

    The lamb was ready.  If this dragged on much longer it would be a lump of coal.  

    Ma sighed, glared at her sisters-in-law and said, “I don’t care if our Blessed Mother made hot dogs and beans.  I’m tired of cleaning.  I’m tired of baking.  I’m tired of the whole damn holiday.  
    And I’m tired of bread.  A few days ago I gave a figolli to a friend who lives down the street.  Yesterday she came over and gave me a loaf of challah.  So I have another traditional bread from Mrs. Cohen… Mrs. Cohen.  That’s it!!” 

    Without saying another word Ma turned and went back to the kitchen.  In a few minutes she returned with the glossy braided challah on the platter.  

    “Our Blessed Mother was a Jew.  She would’ve made a challah.  And that’s what we’re having for Easter.  It’s traditional.  Shut up, sit down and eat.”

    And, so saying, Ma started our traditional Easter Dinner.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Anna Sultana's Pull-Apart Pizza / Cheese, Egg, Vegetable, Meatless and Fish Recipes for 2

Holy Thursday!
No, I’m not cursing.
It’s crunch time and we have to plan menus for the holiday weekend and Easter.

Pork Chops in Lemon Caper Sauce and more uses for capers √
Cornish Hens recipe, with links for Chicken and Meat recipes for 2 √
Coconut Cake and Quick Fudge for a family-sized dessert √
Lemon Cranberry Muffins with links for Brunch, Dessert and Drink Recipes for 2 √

Now we need some vegetable and vegetarian recipes.
A few links for cheese, egg and fish recipes for 2 would also be helpful.

Okay… here’s a vegetarian dish that’s really easy and uses that loaf of Italian bread at the bottom of your freezer.
The goal here is to stay out of the grocery stores.
Their shelves are half empty, there are a ton of rules you have to follow once you're there - 6 feet away from anyone else - and the staff is terrified of meeting someone who doesn’t know he or she has the virus.
Please, do everyone a favour - stay home and use what you have.
You might even start a new family tradition.

Stay home and stay well!


If you have shredded cheese instead of a block of cheese, use that.
If you want it a bit cheesier you can add a bit more cheese on top before baking.

Want a bit of meat?
Cut in half 3 slices bacon
After the pizza is assembled and the remaining margarine mixture is spread on top, arrange the bacon pieces on top.

Use olive oil or tomato sauce instead of the margarine
Insert slices of pepperoni, or any other cold cut, with the mozzarella

                        Pull-Apart Pizza

Grease a baking sheet

In a small bowl combine
1/2 Cup margarine, softened
1/4 Cup onion, minced
1/4 Cup prepared mustard (optional)

Cut into 1 1/2-inch slices without cutting through to the bottom
1 1-pound loaf Italian bread
Place the loaf on the prepared sheet.

Slice enough to have a slice for each incision
8 ounces mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400º F

Reserving 2 Tablespoons of the margarine mixture, use the remainder to spread between the bread slices.
Insert a slice of cheese in each cut.
Press the loaf together.
Spread the remaining margarine mixture on top of the bread.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted.

Cut through the bottom crust with a sharp knife and serve.

Cheese Recipes for 2

Egg Recipes for 2

Vegetable and Meatless Recipes for 2

Fish Recipes for 2

Carmela Soprano's Mussels in Spicy Tomato Sauce with Garlic Bread
                     - Zuppa di Cozze

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Anna Sultana's Lemon Cranberry Muffins / Baking Powder Substitutes /Brunch, Dessert and Drink Recipes for 2

Passover begins tomorrow.
Easter is this Sunday.
Yes, time flies when you’re confined to home for your own safety.

We’ve explored a few uses for capers in the easy Pork Chops in Lemon Caper Sauce post.
And I’ve posted a Cornish Hens recipe, along with links for Chicken and Meat recipes for 2.
The Coconut Cake and Quick Fudge recipes are fine, if you still have the kiddies at home.

If you’re cooking for yourself, or for yourself and a spouse or partner, the cake and fudge might be too much.
Especially if you're seniors.
This post has a muffin recipe, which can be used for a brunch or a dessert, and links for other brunch and simple dessert recipes, as well as some drink recipes.

Happy Holidays ~ Stay safe and well!!


You don’t have any more baking powder? Save yourself a trip and make your own.
Cream of tartar combined with baking soda is an excellent baking powder substitute. 
For 2 teaspoons baking powder: 
Combine 1/2 teaspoon baking soda with 1 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar.
To make it shelf-stable add 1/2 teaspoon of cornstarch to the mixture.

Lemon juice and vinegar are acids, so they can be used to make a substitute. 
For 1 teaspoon of baking powder: 
Combine 1 teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar plus 1/4 teaspoon baking soda 
These ingredients will alter the flavour, so use it for recipes like chocolate cake.

The acidity in buttermilk and sour milk can also work in a recipe.
For 1 teaspoon baking powder: 
Combine 1/2 cup buttermilk or sour milk and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. 
Reduce the liquids in the recipe by 1/2 cup to maintain the desired consistency.

Only use milk that is soured but has a tangy smell. Throw away lumpy or rancid milk.
You can also make sour milk: 
Combine 1 tablespoon lemon juice to 1 cup milk and letting it sit for 2 minutes.

To substitute for self-rising flour:
Combine 1 cup flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

If using regular cranberries: 
Take 1/4 Cup of the flour, add it to the 1/2 cup of berries then add it all to the mix.
The coating of flour helps keep the berries from sinking to the bottom.

Raisins, or any cut up dried fruit, such as apricots, would also work.

                        Lemon Cranberry Muffins

Grease 12 muffin cups, or line with paper muffin liners

Place in a measuring cup
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup lemon juice
Stir to combine. Let sit 10 minutes.

Place in a large bowl
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine in a small bowl
3/4 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Lightly toast
1/3 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 400º F 

Stir the egg mixture into the flour mixture until just moistened.
Do not overmix.
Fold in 
1/2 cup dried cranberries or 1 cup cranberries, halved 
Fill the prepared muffin cups two-thirds full.
Sprinkle with the toasted slivered almonds
Bake in preheated oven 18 to 20 minutes. 
A toothpick inserted into a muffin should come out clean.
Cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan to a wire rack. 

If you want to dress up your muffins you can makes this lemon glaze.
Combine in a small bowl
1 Cup confectioners’ sugar
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
Stir until smooth.
Place the muffins on a plate and drizzle with the glaze.

Brunch Recipes for 2

Anna Sultana’s Quiche Lorraine & Pat-in Pie Crust

Dessert Recipes for 2

              and Anna Sultana's Fruit in Wine, Maltese Style

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Anna Sultana's Roasted Cornish Game Hens / Chicken and Meat Recipes for 2 Links

I know… it’s tempting to go to the store to get just the thing to make this holiday dinner special.
Fight that urge.
Make do with what you have.
Catching the COVID-19 virus and infecting your family with it is not the best of ideas.
Good health is the best gift you could give yourself and your loved ones.
It’s almost guaranteed that you have more on your shelves that the stores do.
Shop your shelves. Please.

This easy recipe will give you moist  and tender hens with a nice spicy flavour.

Happy Holidays!


This is a recipe for two. 
If you're a family of four, or more, just increase as needed.

If you want to make a complete meal in a pan you can do this:
2 peeled carrots
1 celery stalk 
1 yellow onion
Spread out the vegetables in the bottom of the greased pan and season with
1 1/2 teaspoons rosemary 
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Place the hens on top of the vegetables and continue following the recipe.

If you found a chicken instead of cornish hens in your freezer you can make the same recipe, but roast for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

                        Roasted Cornish Hens

Thaw overnight
2 cornish hens

Combine in a smal bowl 
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
2 Tablespoons dried parsley

About 4 hours before you wish to to roast the thawed hens, pat them completely dry, both inside and out.
Place the two cornish hens in a greased pan.
Rub olive oil lightly over them. 
Sprinkle the spice mixture generously over the hens and inside them as well.
Cover, refrigerate and let marinate for at least 3 hours for maximum flavour.

Preheat oven to 450º F

Have on hand
1 Tablespoon butter, divided into 2 pieces 

Run your fingers under the skin of the hens' breasts to loosen them.
Place a piece of butter under the skin of each hen.
Sprinkle on more parsley.
Bake for 50 - 60 minutes, depending on the size of hens.
Let the hens rest for 15 minutes before serving.

Since we won't be socializing in crowds for a while here are a few menu planning ideas:

Chicken Recipes for 2

Meat Recipes for 2