Sweet! Celebrations: The Ultimate Dessert & Party Planning Companion by Elise Strachan

I need someone to have a baby. Or a birthday. Or a bar mitzvah. Or maybe we’ll just make up our own occasion because there are so many fun, festive and new-to-me ideas in Elise Strachan’s Sweet! Celebrations: The Ultimate Dessert & Party Planning Companion  and I want to try them all. Simon & Schuster Canada sent me a copy to review so here’s the skinny including the couple of treats I tried — one quick and easy no-bake, one a bit more persnickety that I turned into a no-bake — and both super cute and delicious.  Sweet! Celebrations: The Ultimate Dessert & Party Planning Companion by Elise Strachan

Pumpkin pudding

So it’s the beginning of a new week and you’ve got a million things to do, but trust me when I say you’ll want to find some time to make this pumpkin pudding. It is ridiculous, mes amis.

pumpkin pudding

The recipe’s from my dear friend Carolyn (check out her fab fashion blog!), who loves to curl up with a big bowl or two this time every year.

Make it for a get-together or a night at home with the fam. You’ll thank me. And Carolyn! It is that good.

pumpkin pudding

Pumpkin pudding

Serves 6 to 8


1/2 cup + 1 tbsp of room temperature butter
1 cup (I use half a cup, it’s plenty!) + 1/3 cup of brown sugar
1 egg
2/3 cup of pure pumpkin
1 cup of flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves (I use 1/2 tsp cinnamon plus 2 heaping tsps pumpkin spice instead of the nutmeg and cloves)
1/4 cup raisins
1 2/3 cup of boiling water
1/2 cup orange juice



Preheat oven to 325 F.

Grease a 2-quart baking dish.

Cream together 1/2 cup of butter and 1/3 cup of brown sugar. Beat in egg and pure pumpkin.

In a separate bowl, stir flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Gradually stir into the pumpkin mixture. Fold in the raisins.

Spoon batter into prepared baking dish . Sprinkle 1 cup of brown sugar over the mixture. (I use half a cup and it’s deelish!)

Combine 1 tbsp of butter, boiling water and orange juice in a bowl. Pour slowly and evenly over the entire mixture (this will look weird but it’s right).

Bake for 45 minutes.

Serve warm and top with whipped cream.

Apple cranberry raisin pie

It felt great to get back in the kitchen yesterday after a few days away at Blissdom, the social media conference held last weekend in Mississauga, Ontario. I’ve been feeling a bit out of sorts since I returned, kicking myself for not introducing myself to more people (‘tho I’m so happy I met the ones I did — I’m looking at you, Aneta, Helene, Renee, Jessica, Cathy, Catherine, Jo-Anne and Rachel) and wondering where I fit in.

But the kitchen, the kitchen is definitely my element. Doing something creative with my hands, making something tangible my family will (usually) enjoy and staging and photographing the process and/or the final product fills me up and gives me time to think things through (or not think, which is also nice). It’s my happy place. My zone. A light in the dark. (I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for years.)

Not that everything turns out. No, I have my share of flops. But this apple cranberry raisin pie is a sure bet, people! No fail! Whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving this weekend or next month or not at all, it’s perfect to put on your table for Fall.

apple cranberry raisin pie

A great big thank you to Catherine, who shared the recipe with me. She’s had it for years but can’t place it. Our compliments to the baker, whoever you are!

Apple cranberry raisin pie

What’s your zone, your happy place?

Apple cranberry raisin pie

Makes one 9-inch pie


Dough for two 9-inch pie crusts (I used Tenderflake pie shells)

5 tart apples

1 cup cranberries

1/2 cup raisins

Grated rind from one lemon

1 cup sugar (I used 3/4 cup)

3 tablespoons flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Line a pie pan with half the dough.

Stir the sugar, salt, and flour together in a large bowl.

Add the cranberries, raisins, and lemon rind.

Peel, core, and slice the apples and toss them in the sugar mixture. (I like apple peels so I left those on.)

Pile the filling into the lined pie pan and dot with butter.

Roll out the top crust and drape it over the pie. (I sliced one of the crusts into long strips to do a lattice pattern.)

Crimp the edges together and cut several small vents in the top.

Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking for 30 to 40 minutes or until the apples are tender when pierced with a skewer and the crust is browned.

How to be a rock star

Remember when Caesar salad was just starting to become a thing? Your aunt brought it to the family reunion and turned into a rock star, the men cleaning their plates (most wouldn’t make room for anything that wasn’t meat or potatoes) and the women clamouring for the recipe. It went without saying that she’d bring it next year. Now it wouldn’t be a reunion without it. Your aunt owned that dish.

This, my friends, is the next big thing. Make it for a family reunion, a party or a weeknight at home and you can be a rock star too.

layered dessert full

Looks delicious, right? It’s MBAMama Musing’s raspberry and vanilla custard layered dessert. Only instead of vanilla custard I used vanilla pudding, and instead of homemade raspberry sauce I used store-bought strawberry jam. And instead of crepes — wait! Those aren’t crepes! Well what are they? That’s the magic that’ll make you a rock star. But you’ll have to go to the recipe to find out.

layered dessert 2

It comes together in minutes, tastes unreal and looks just as pretty as a picture.

Try it and see. You’ll own this dish too.