The Covered Dish - Nanaimo Bars

July 05, 2023

A few weeks ago, my husband, Ervin, and I celebrated our 25th anniversary, with a dinner for ten, at our home. It turned out to be a very pleasant dining event. One of my guests insisted on doing the dessert. At first; I was going to turn her down, and then I got my head on straight and said, ‘yes’. It was a super smart move because her desserts were a blueberry lemon cheesecake tart along with the delicious bars I am presenting today. In the event you are wondering what the rest of the meal featured, here we go: Shrimp Cocktails, Homemade cheese spread, tri-tips, baked potatoes with all the fix ins, hot rolls, and a somewhat ‘heavy’ green salad, very traditional.
Many of you are wondering why I didn’t go out to dinner? Let’s see, I have several answers prepared! I was looking for the following amenities as I planned our dinner: good music, a great view, good quality food, service staffs that were on top of things and didn’t ‘hover’, adults only atmosphere, and a meal that didn’t break the bank. As I took suggestions from friends and started investigating venues it looked like we’d have to break the piggy bank for dinner out. ($1000.) We both talked about our desires and I asked Ervin if he was OK if I prepared our anniversary dinner? He’s a smart man, and he quickly said yes!

I kept it very simple as you saw with the menu. I was able to do a great deal of prep ahead of time. The table décor was somewhat casual, with a red, white and blue theme. Country bandannas were the dinner napkins. We were also able to enjoy our appetizers without the salad or main entrée being served at the same time! Another Debbie pet peeve. So; I guess it's pretty obvious this cook is hard to please when she goes out to dinner. Remember these are expectations when spending $75 - $100 per person for dinner out. I’m not that demanding at other times. Heck I love a good sandwich served at a picnic table!

My good friend, Kathy, blew us away with the Nanaimo Bars. They come from Canada and they are traditionally eaten on July 1st for their nation’s birthday. The no-bake treats are actually considered a national treasure and have appeared on a stamp! This version originated from the friends at Food Network Canada.
Let’s dive in and take a closer look at the recipe:

Nanaimo Bars

Serves 16 persons,

Approx. 30 min. prep

8-inch baking pan


1 stick unsalted butter

5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg, beaten

1 3/4 cups fresh graham cracker crumbs (I never use the box ones!)

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped

Middle Layer

1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature.

2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons heavy cream

2 tablespoons instant vanilla pudding (3 oz. box)

2 cups powdered sugar


4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

2 tablespoons unsalted butter


Using parchment paper line the 8-inch baking pan. Prepare the base by combining the butter, cocoa powder and granulated sugar in a heat-proof bowl. Sit the bowl over and saucepan of simmering water. Heat the ingredients, stirring until melted. Stir in the egg until thickened. (1-2 minutes) Remove the bowl from the heat and stir in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut and chopped almonds. Press the mixture into the bottom of the baking pan.

To prepare the middle layer: Beat everything together except the powdered sugar, until well combined. (About 3 minutes) Gradually add the powdered sugar, beat until light and fluffy, (about 5 minutes). Spread mix over the base.
Topping: Melt chocolate and butter in another clean heatproof bowl, over simmering water, stirring continuously. Allow to cool and pour it over the middle layer. Cool and refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. The recipe says it serve 16 pieces, however this is an extremely sweet/rich bar and you could easily cut this into smaller sizes.

The middle layer of this bar was the only part I had trouble diffusing when I first sampled the recipe. Also; the recipe goes back many years, perhaps before microwaves. Some folks today may choose to do a couple of the steps in a microwave, etc. Prepare yourselves the compliments are going to flow.

Simply yours,

The Covered Dish