Cynthia Stone: Random recipes

Nothing like dropping temperatures to drive me into the kitchen to turn on the stove. This past week I’ve been playing around with old recipes and trying out some new ones and I wanted to share them with you. There’s no theme today, no cohesive menu or witty commentary, just good bites that I think you will enjoy. 

Date Nut Bars

Starting with two of my family’s go-to holiday recipes I came up with this combination and darned if it wasn’t delicious. I was going for a nice-looking iced square but with the flavours of my mother’s ancient date nut loaf.

These freeze well, even iced, although you could also freeze them in a block, thaw and ice them, then cut when ready to serve.

They are rich, so I recommend cutting 4 by 6 to get 24 bars, or 5 by 5 for 25 squares.

1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 tsp. vanilla
2-1/2 cups fine unsweetened coconut
2 cups finely chopped dates, preferably a soft variety
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts


1/2 cup soft butter or margarine
1 cup icing sugar
2 tbsp. flour
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine condensed milk and vanilla. Stir in coconut, dates and walnuts. Press into a greased 8-inch square pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes. Cool completely.

For the icing, cream butter until fluffy. Beat in icing sugar and flour. Add milk and vanilla and beat until smooth. Spread over cooled base and refrigerate at least an hour. Cut into bars, dipping the knife in hot water and drying it off after each cut.

Two Cream Cheese Desserts

My sister often asks for cheesecake dessert squares for her birthday cake. The old recipe I use calls for cherry pie filling, but she wanted blueberries this year. Others in the family prefer chocolate so I swapped out the blueberries for a delectable chocolate mousse and here’s the two-for-one outcome.

Each of these serves about 8.

Blueberry Version

Fruit Compote:

6 cups frozen or fresh blueberries
3 tbsp. granulated sugar


1-1/4 cups graham wafer crumbs
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/3 cup melted butter or margarine


2 cups whipping cream
2/3 cup granulated sugar, divided
2 tsp. vanilla, divided
1 8-oz. package soft cream cheese, any fat content


1 cup whipping cream
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Make the fruit compote first because it will take time to cool. Cook blueberries with 3 tbsp. sugar in a heavy-bottomed pot until they release their liquid, about 10 minutes if starting with frozen. Crush with a potato masher to hurry them along. Strain the berries and set aside. Boil down the liquid to ½ cup. Add reduced juice back to the reserved berries, combine well and cool.

For the base, combine graham crumbs, sugar and butter, mixing until crumbs are well coated. Reserve 2 tbsp. for the top of the dessert. Press the rest evenly in a greased 9 by 11-inch baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes. Cool.

Whip cream with half the sugar (1/3 cup) and half the vanilla (1 tsp.) until firm. Set aside.

Beat cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in remaining 1/3 cup of the sugar and remaining 1 tsp. vanilla. Beat in half the prepared whipped cream. Spread on top of the cooled crust.

Spoon the cooled blueberry compote over the cream cheese layer then spread the remaining whipped cream gently on top so as not to disturb the berries.

Sprinkle reserved 2 tbsp. graham crumb mixture over the whipped cream and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Chocolate Version


1-1/4 cups Oreo baking crumbs or graham wafer crumbs
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1/3 cup melted butter or margarine


1 8-oz. package soft cream cheese, any fat content
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup whipping cream
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped
6 oz. (3/4 cup) cold water


1 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. chocolate shavings

For the base, combine crumbs, sugar and butter, mixing until crumbs are well coated. Press evenly in a greased 9 by 11-inch baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 minutes. Cool.

For the middle, beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together until fluffy. In a separate bowl beat whipping cream until firm. Beat whipped cream into cream cheese mixture. Set aside.

Melt chocolate and water together over low heat, stirring constantly. I know you’re not supposed to get water in your chocolate. but this really works—try it. Immediately put the pot in a big bowl of ice water and beat until mixture is whipped up and mousse-like. If the chocolate goes grainy reheat it until melted, back to the ice bath and whip it again.

Fold resulting chocolate mousse into cream cheese-whipped cream mixture until there are no streaks of chocolate or white. Spread evenly over cooled base.

For the topping, beat the 1 cup whipping cream with sugar and vanilla until firm then spread carefully and evenly over chocolate middle. Top with chocolate shavings. (A vegetable peeler and a block of not-too-cold semi-sweet chocolate is all you need.) Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cynthia Stone is an information manager and writer in St. John’s. E-mail questions to her at

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