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Recipes with Julie Van Rosendaal: Holiday cookies for a good cause

These Nanaimo bar cookies take all the classic flavours of a Nanaimo bar and transform them into cookie goodness. (Julie Van Rosendaal - image credit)
These Nanaimo bar cookies take all the classic flavours of a Nanaimo bar and transform them into cookie goodness. (Julie Van Rosendaal - image credit)

The annual Make the Season Kind campaign cookie party in support of the Calgary Food Bank happens Dec. 10, and this year it will be virtual, allowing every participant to Zoom in from the comfort of their kitchens and bake along with their families.

Tickets for the party are available at They're $20 to take part, and 100 per cent of the proceeds go to the food bank. Recipes will be sent to participants ahead of the event so you can grab the ingredients beforehand.

Whether you're able to join us or not, you may be interested in the recipes we're making this year. We talked about a few of them this week on the Calgary Eyeopener.

Hopefully they'll become new seasonal favourites!

Skibo Castle Ginger Crunch

This was the most popular cookie recipe in Gourmet Magazine in 1999.

It doesn't look like much, but this is one of my favourite cookies. It's a thin, cooked-till-golden layer of shortbread (made with ginger), topped with a layer of melted butter, icing sugar and Lyle's (or Rogers') Golden Syrup, also spiked with dried ginger, which is kind of peppery and has a completely different flavour profile than fresh ginger.

You could cut them into small squares, but I like breaking them into shards, so that you get different shapes and sizes.

They're totally not fancy, but so, so yummy.

Julie Van Rosendaal
Julie Van Rosendaal


Shortbread base:

  • 1¼ cups all-purpose flour

  • 3 tbsp sugar

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • 1 tsp ground ginger

  • ¼ tsp salt

  • ½ cup cold butter, cut into pieces


  • 1/3 cup butter

  • 1 tbsp Lyle's or Rogers' Golden Syrup (British cane sugar syrup)

  • 1 cup icing sugar

  • ½ tsp ground ginger

  • ½ tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a 9x13-inch pan with parchment.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, ginger and salt and blend in the butter, working it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Press evenly into the bottom of the pan (it will be thin) and bake until pale golden and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes.

Just before the shortbread is done, melt the butter in a small saucepan and whisk in the golden syrup, icing sugar, ginger and vanilla. Bring to a simmer for about 30 seconds.

Remove shortbread from oven and pour topping over, tilting pan and using a spatula to cover it evenly.

Cool in the pan, then cut into small rectangles or break into shards.

Serves: About 10.

Nanaimo Bar Cookies

I adore these. They're Nanaimo bars in cookie form.

I came across these on a sugar brand website last year, and I wish I knew who came up with them — such a brilliant idea!

I've adapted it a bit, and they're truly one of my new favourite holiday cookies.

You can omit the nuts if you like. Add more coconut, or just skip them altogether.

Julie Van Rosendaal
Julie Van Rosendaal


Cookie dough:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • ½ cup graham crumbs

  • ¼ cup cocoa

  • 1 tsp baking powder

  • ¼ tsp fine salt

  • ½ cup butter, softened

  • ¾ cup packed golden brown sugar

  • 1 large egg (or stir 1 tbsp chia seeds into 3 tbsp warm water, let sit 5 minutes)

  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • ¾ cup shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)

  • 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans


  • ¼ cup butter, softened

  • 1¼ cups icing sugar

  • 2 tbsp Bird's custard powder

  • 1-2 tbsp cream, milk or coconut milk

  • ½ tsp vanilla (optional)


  • ½ cup chopped chocolate or chocolate chips

  • 1 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, graham crumbs, cocoa, baking powder and salt.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar for 3 to 4 minutes, until fluffy. Beat in the egg and the vanilla.

On low speed or using a spatula, stir in the dry ingredients, along with the coconut and walnuts.

Roll dough into walnut-sized balls and place a couple inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use your thumb to create an indentation in each cookie.

Bake for 14 minutes, until just set. Remove and use the back of a small spoon to gently reform the indentations. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

To make the filling, beat the butter, icing sugar, custard powder, cream and vanilla (if you're using it) until smooth and fluffy, adding a bit more cream or icing sugar as needed to create a spreadable frosting.

Place the filling in a piping bag fitted with a ½-inch plain tip, or in a zip-lock bag; seal and cut off one corner.

Pipe some frosting into each cooled cookie.

In a small bowl, melt the chocolate and butter in the microwave in 10-second increments, stirring in between, until smooth.

Dip the cookies halfway into the chocolate to coat, or drizzle them with a fork. Set back on the cooled baking sheets and let them set.

Makes: about two dozen cookies.