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Classic Nanaimo Bars. You cannot get much more Canadian than Nanaimo Bars! If you are not familiar with them, you might be thinking to yourself, “What the heck are Nanaimo Bars?”
The Nanaimo Bar is a classic dessert bar/cookie that originated in Nanaimo, British Columbia. It usually consists of three distinct layers.
A cookie crumb/coconut/nut base. A rich and creamy sweet custard flavored icing filling. A melted chocolate topping.
You will see a lot of different versions out there. There are many versions of the filling and base, all three layered. Some flavored with peanut butter, etc.
This is the original classic version that I am sharing with you today. The recipe comes from a recipe that I got from one of my longest and dearest friends, Mabel.
Mabel and I met each other here in Nova Scotia in 1983. My ex husband and I had taken a compassionate posting here (he was in the military) after my mother and father separated that year.
It was a very difficult time for my mother and she really needed our support. We ended up moving into a townhouse on the base and Mabel was my next door neighbor. We got along like a house on fire from day one.
We both had children around the same age and indeed, her son Richard and my son Douglas remained friends all the way up through high school and were each other’s best men at their respective weddings.
Mable and I used to sit on our front door stoop after supper each night enjoying a cup of coffee and catching up with each other’s days. We did a lot of things together. We also enjoyed a lot of the same interests.
Crafts, cooking, ballroom dancing, square dancing, etc. We have been friends now for about 40 years. I love it when a friendship can withstand the test of time. We are not as close as we used to be of course, but we are still in touch and speak online from time to time. Due to Covid of course.
Although I had been away from Canada for 20 years, every time I was able to visit home Mabel and I always got together for a drink and a good gab, and a meal. This time we haven’t been able to see each other in person, but hopefully this mess will all be over with soon.
Mabel did move away from here for several years to Labrador with her family. When she left to go she gifted me with a cookbook that she had inscribed with a lovely message in her beautiful calligraphy. I sure missed her for those few years she was away.
We shared a lot of recipes with each other through the years. We used to also get together as couples once a month to have a meal, catered to by either her or myself, usually with a foreign theme.
They were so much fun. We had German night, Spanish night, Italian night, Mexican night, Chinese night, etc. I learned a lot about cooking from her, and I hope that she did from me also. In any case this recipe comes from that book she gave to me all those years ago!
This recipe is one of my tried and trues! How could it be anything else??? Recipes shared by friends are some of the best recipes in the world.
You know that if they are sharing them, that they are also their tried and trues. Nobody shares recipes that don’t work out. That’s just how it goes!
I have several of her recipes posted on here. Recipes like her delicious Strawberry Pie. The filling base is made in the microwave, and plenty of fresh berries are folded into that before it gets poured into the crust and chilled.
Its my absolute favourite pie during Strawberry season. I never make it but what I think of her and the happy memories we share.
Then there is the recipe for Dad’s Cookies I got from her. They are a fabulously tasty slice and bake oatmeal cookie that greatly resembles the Dad’s brand of Oatmeal Cookies that you can buy in the shops.
Delicious with an ice cold glass of milk or hot cuppa.
This was Ariana’s favourite cake that I used to make her when she lived with us. I always made it every year for her and Jose’s birthday’s also. It is a lush peanut butter cake with a rich peanut butter buttercream frosting. Seriously tasty.
Another of her recipes which I have enjoyed many times through the years is Mabel’s Ham Pate. It is especially good to make when you have leftover boiled ham.
Excellent on crackers or crisp breads.
Back to the bars. These are very easy to make. Three lush layers. No bake, although you do cook the bottom layer a bit in a double boiler. You melt together butter, sugar and cocoa powder, then beat in an egg and cook until thick.
Into this gets stirred some graham cracker crumbs, desiccated coconut and finely chopped toasted walnuts, before the whole mixture is pressed into a pan and chilled.
If you use the flat bottom of a metal measuring cup to press it down, its very easily done.
The middle layer is thick, vanilla custard flavoured and incredibly sweet and buttery. Its quite moreish actually.
Onto that some semi sweet chocolate melted together with butter. Oh my goodness . . .
Rich, sweet and totally irresistible. You can make them well ahead and keep them in the freezer if you wish. If you live in America you can buy the Bird’s Eye Custard Powder in dedicated British shops or online via Amazon.
Here in Canada it is available in most grocery stores. I consider it to be a store cupboard ingredient myself.
At any rate, I hope you will want to make these lush and simple bars. Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy!
Classic Nanaimo Bars
Yield: Makes 36 squares
Author: Marie Rayner
These are exceptionally delicious. A tried and true Canadian treat!
1/2 cup (125g) butter
1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
5 TBS cocoa powder
1 large free range egg, beaten
1 3/4 cups (165g) graham cracker crumbs (In the UK use crushed digestive cookie crumbs)
3/4 cup (60g) desiccated coconut
1/2 cup (45g) finely chopped toasted walnuts
1/2 cup (125g) butter, softened
3 TBS milk
2 TBS vanilla custard powder
2 cups (260g) icing sugar, sifted
For the top layer:
2/3 cup (120g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 TBS butter
Have ready a 9X9 inch square baking pan.
First make the bottom layer. Melt the butter, sugar and cocoa powder together in the top of a double boiler, over simmering water (or in a heavy based saucepan).
Temper the beaten egg with some of this and then return the whole mixture to the top of the double boiler. Continue to cook over simmering water until the mixture begins to thicken.
Stir in the crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press firmly into the pan.
To make the second layer, cream the butter, milk, custard powder and icing sugar together until smooth and light. Spread this mixture over top of the bottom layer. Put in the fridge to chill while you make the top layer.
To make the final layer, melt the chocolate chips and butter together over low heat. Cool. When cool, but still runny, pour this and spread it over top of the second layer.
Place in the refrigerator to chill completely before cutting into squares with a sharp knife to serve.
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Debunking the myths of English Cookery, one recipe at a time. The English Kitchen http://theenglishkitchen.blogspot.com/
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