Friday, 22 May 2015

Comfort Food at its Very Best

My mom was the best cook I've ever known- and will ever know.

I can't begin to tell you how good Mom's food tasted- there are no words. This was comfort food at its very best. Chicken soup, meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, her special salmon rice and green bean dish-she could even make a tuna casserole taste like heaven. The smell of our dinner on a Sunday afternoon would drive me wild. Each summer she would get a whole mess of perch from the lake, bread them and take out an enormous pan and fry those babies up in an obscene amount of lard and butter! I still remember that first taste of summer, how they melted in my mouth. When I was a teenager, and I liked a boy, I would invite him over for dinner because I knew if he had one meal at our house, he would be back for more (and my husband is proof of that)!

Mom's baking was in a league of its own. She could make the fanciest desserts like the best of them, but what we all loved the most was to be offered the simple treats when we came for a visit- her peanut butter cookies, her brownies, her dates squares.. And pies? Oh my goodness- no one made pies like Mom. Apple, cherry, peach- you name it- they were perfection.

When I'm in the kitchen cooking, I often think of Mom and try to remember what she would tell me. "Never scoop the flour out of the bag with a measuring cup. Always spoon it in, and carefully level it when it's full". Yesterday as I was getting ready to make bread, I was in a hurry and was tempted just to try it the easy way. But with her words speaking to me- loud and clear- I painstakingly  did the right way, smiling all the while.

One of my favourite treats was Mom's date squares. This week I made a version of them (from Ann Lindsay's cookbook) for a dear group of friends, and we enjoyed them immensely. Tonight I'm making them for my husband's birthday, instead of a cake as they are his favourite too.

Wanted to share this recipe with you as well. Enjoy.

Best-Ever Date Squares
500 ml (2 cups) packed chopped pitted dates
250 ml (1 cup) cold coffee (* I substituted water for some of the coffee because I served them in the evening)
30 ml (2 tbsp) packed brown sugar
Grated rind and juice of half an orange
15 ml (1 tbsp) fresh lemon juice

300 ml (1-1/4 cups) all-purpose flour
5 ml (1 tsp) baking powder
2 ml (1/2 tsp) baking soda
2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
150 ml (2/3 cup) butter
300 ml (1 1/4 cups) rolled oats
175 ml (3/4 cup) lightly packed brown sugar (*I used 1/2 cup)

METHOD: In a small saucepan, combine dates, coffee, brown sugar and orange rind; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until soft enough to mash and consistency of jam (runny, but easy to spread), about 10 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in orange and lemon juices. Let cool.

Crumb Mixture: In a bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With pastry blender or 2 knives, cut in butter until size of small peas. Stir in rolled oats and sugar.
Press half of crumb mixture firmly into lightly greased 2.5-l (9-in.) square cake pan. Spread date mixture evenly over crumb mixture. Top with remaining crumbs, pressing lightly. 

Bake in 160 C (325 F) oven for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool in pan. Cut into squares.

 Makes 25 squares. Source: Smart Cooking:
Source: 10th Anniversary Edition, by Anne Lindsay (Macmillan Canada)/CP

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