Summer Garden Vegetable Dip

I love late August because there is an abundance of fresh garden produce available.  Vegetable and dip platters make a great snack for any occasion.  Vegetables are so colorful that they make any platter look outstanding plus raw vegetables are healthy food.

I like to use a variety of vegetables, colors, shapes, and textures on a veggie platter, making it pleasing to both the eye and the palette.  Like these colorful dragon tongue beans, for example.  These beans are actually best eaten raw because, if cooked, they lose their color.

Dragon Tongue Beans
Dragon Tongue Beans

I like the crunchiness of raw cauliflower which now comes in a variety of colors – purple, green, or this bright orange.

Orange Cauliflower
Orange Cauliflower

Make sure a variety of veggies are included so there is something for everyone’s taste.

I love the many varieties and colors of cherry tomatoes available including these pear-shaped and tiger-striped ones.

Variety of Cherry Tomatoes
Variety of Cherry Tomatoes

It’s easy, I know, and sometimes tempting to buy bottled dip from the supermarket but the downside is those dips/dressings may contain ingredients that aren’t necessarily so healthy.  That’s why I like to make my own dip.

Summer Garden Vegetable Dip
Summer Garden Vegetable Dip

The dip recipe I am sharing today actually does double duty in a couple of ways.  First, it contains fresh veggies so, not only do the vegetables get dipped into it but the dip itself also has radishes, onion, green pepper, and cucumber as ingredients in it.  Second, this dip may also be used as a salad dressing on your favorite green salad.  The dip doesn’t contain any unusual or hard-to-find ingredients.

This is an easy dip to make.  Other than mincing up the veggies, it’s simply a matter of mixing all the ingredients together in one bowl.  It’s best if it chills for at least a couple of hours before serving which also makes it convenient as it can be prepared and refrigerated earlier in the day.  The veggies can also be prepared earlier in the day as well which makes it one less thing to do before a gathering.

Summer Garden Vegetable Dip

Ingredients:

1 cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp sugar
½ tsp fine sea salt
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
Dash of garlic powder, to taste
3 tbsp finely chopped radishes
¼ cup finely chopped green pepper
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
¼ cup finely chopped English cucumber, unpeeled

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

In medium-sized bowl, combine sour cream and mayonnaise. Add sugar, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Stir well.

Add the finely chopped (minced) vegetables and stir to blend well.

Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours prior to serving.

Serve with your favourite selection of garden vegetables.

Note: This may also be used as a dressing for tossed salads.  This recipe is easily halved or doubled according to need.

Yield: Apx. 2 cups

Because there is sour cream and mayonnaise in this dip, it needs to be kept cold.  I use a container that has a cavity for ice and then the dip container itself sits on top of the ice to keep it cool.

Ice in container for dip
Ice in container for dip

As soon as I spotted these napkins, I knew they would be appropriate for one of my vegetable and dip trays.

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Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto
Basil Pesto

Fresh basil is plentiful in many gardens and at farmers’ markets right now.  It’s a good time to make a batch or two of basil pesto.

Basil pesto is so versatile.  It can be used on pizzas, in pasta dishes, mixed with mayo for a sandwich spread, in soups, salads, in wraps, spread with butter over corn on the cob, as an ingredient in steamed mussels, and the list goes on.  As any creative cook will attest, basil pesto is a good staple to have on hand.

If you have an abundance of basil growing in your herb garden, or otherwise at your disposal, making pesto is a quick, easy, simple way to process it for a multitude of uses.  It takes very few ingredients but, fair warning, one key ingredient is very expensive – pine nuts.  However, the recipe doesn’t take many, thankfully.  I bought 1/4 cup to use in my recipe and it came to $2.65.  Walnuts can be substituted for pine nuts.

One of the easiest ways to store pesto is to freeze it in ice cube trays.

Freezing Basil Pesto
Freezing Basil Pesto

Simply place a large piece of plastic wrap over the ice cube slots and fill each with the pesto.  Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for several hours.  Remove from freezer and lift the plastic wrap with the frozen pesto cubes from the tray.  Peel off the frozen pesto cubes and store them in a sealed container or plastic bag in the freezer.  These are very handy because they can easily be popped into soup or quickly thawed for spreading on your favorite sandwich or wrap or used in any other dish in which you would normally use basil pesto.  If you need more than a tablespoon or two of pesto at a time then, of course, you will want to freeze the pesto in larger containers.

Basil Pesto

Ingredients:

2 cups gently packed fresh basil leaves (washed and dried)
¼ cup pine nuts
2 cloves garlic
½ cup olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt, to taste
Fresh ground pepper, to taste

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Ingredients for Basil Pesto
Ingredients for Basil Pesto

My fresh basil is from Just A Little Farm in Bonshaw, PEI.  Farmer Jessica Vos grows her herbs and vegetables naturally with no chemicals.

Fresh Organic Basil from "Just A Little Farm", Bonshaw, PEI
Fresh Organic Basil from “Just A Little Farm”, Bonshaw, PEI

In food processor, mix together the basil leaves, pine nuts, and garlic.

Adding the pine nuts
Adding the pine nuts
Adding the garlic
Adding the garlic

Pulse the Pesto!

Pulse until mixture is finely chopped into a paste.

Pulse the Pesto!
Pulse the Pesto!

With the food processor running, add about ⅓ of the olive oil in a steady, slow stream. Reserve remaining oil for drizzling over finished pesto.

Adding the olive oil
Adding the olive oil

Add the Parmesan cheese and pulse again.

Adding the Parmesan Cheese
Adding the Parmesan Cheese

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Adding the salt
Adding the salt
Adding the freshly-ground pepper
Adding the freshly-ground pepper

Bottle the pesto and drizzle remaining olive oil over the pesto. Store pesto in refrigerator or freeze.

Bottling the Pesto
Bottling the pesto and adding remainder of olive oil

Yield:  Apx. ¾ cup

Homemade Basil Pesto
Homemade Basil Pesto

Here are a couple of my favorite uses of basil pesto.

Corn on the Cob – Slather some butter and basil pesto on hot steamed peaches and cream corn.

Basil Pesto on Corn on the Cob
Basil Pesto on Corn on the Cob

We love our PEI mussels!  A cube of basil pesto is a quick way to add some extra flavor to the steaming broth for mussels.  Added to some onion, garlic, and white wine, the pesto deepens the flavour of the mussels.

PEI mussels steamed in basil pesto with white wine, onion, and garlic
PEI mussels steamed in basil pesto with white wine, onion, and garlic

Oh, and don’t forget to dip those tasty little morsels in melted butter!

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Cinnamon Buns and Brunch on the Front Verandah

Cinnamon Buns
Cinnamon Buns

I don’t think I have ever met anyone who did not like cinnamon rolls or cinnamon buns.  Just the scent of them baking in the oven makes the house smell sooooo divine!  They also freeze well and they are a staple in my freezer because I can quickly pull one out on weekday mornings and pop it into the lunch bag as a special treat for morning coffee break.  A quick re-heat for about 15 seconds in the microwave and these taste like they are fresh from the oven.

The recipe I will share at the end of this post is one I have been making for many years.  The rolls end up being a bit different shape because I use muffin tins to bake them.  In fact, they are more aptly called buns.  Several years ago, there was a hotel in downtown Charlottetown, PEI, that had a great little restaurant and this was how they shaped their cinnamon rolls.  This intrigued me and so I have been making my cinnamon rolls this way ever since first seeing them at this restaurant that, unfortunately, no longer operates.

Cinnamon rolls are really little more than a sweet biscuit dough.  They take no uncommon ingredients and are quick to make.  There are two tricks I have learned to making cinnamon rolls or buns.  The first key is not to over-mix or over-knead the dough as this results in a tough cinnamon bun.  The second key is not to over-bake them as they will dry out.

I don’t typically drizzle an icing on my cinnamon rolls but, for those who have an extra special sweet tooth, simply mix up 1/2 cup icing sugar with 1/4 cup milk and drizzle over the cinnamon buns while they are still warm.

Cinnamon buns are a nice addition to a weekend brunch and so I am sharing some photographs of a recent brunch where I featured cinnamon buns.

If you are like me, weekday morning breakfasts are generally quick and there is little time for relaxation over the first meal of the day.  However, weekend breakfasts or brunches are much more relaxing.  In the summer, we like to eat breakfast/brunch out under the front verandah.

So, here was what was on the brunch menu: Fresh-squeezed orange juice, boiled egg, cheese, multi-grain toast with homemade rhubarb marmalade, yogurt, fresh-from-the-oven cinnamon buns and, of course, a nice pot of tea.

I love these little blue and white egg cups!

As you can see, the color theme for today’s brunch was blue and white.

I like to add a splash of color to the plates. Nothing more than a slice of orange, a piece of parsley from the herb garden and a sweet little viola is needed.

There’s always time for a second cup of tea on weekend mornings so a nice big teapot is a good thing!

And, of course, there are the cinnamon buns to finish off with that second cup of tea!

It’s hard to stop at just one of these yummy cinnamon buns!

Curious to see what the cinnamon bun looks like inside?

Cinnamon Buns

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
2 tbsp white sugar
4 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

½ cup cold butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup milk

Cinnamon Filling:

⅓ cup butter, softened
½ cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 10 muffin cups.

Assemble ingredients.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl.

Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture is consistency of coarse crumbs.

Whisk the egg and milk together and pour over dry ingredients. Stir with a fork just until the wet ingredients have been incorporated.  Do not overmix – ingredients will be further incorporated during the kneading process.

Turn ingredients out on to a floured surface. Knead ten times. Do not over-knead as this will create a tough dough.

Roll out dough into a 9”x12” rectangle.

Spread the dough with the softened butter.  Sprinkle the brown sugar over the surface. Evenly sprinkle the cinnamon over the sugar.

Starting at the nearest long edge , roll up the dough evenly into a log shape. Pinch the seam to seal. Using a sharp knife, cut the log into 10 even pieces.

Place each bun in a greased muffin cup.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until buns spring back to a light touch. Do not overbake or the cinnamon buns will be dry.

Let cool in pans for 5-7 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Yield: Apx. 10-12 cinnamon buns

(NOTE: I find the cinnamon buns are a better size if just 10 are cut out of this recipe; however, it is possible to get 12 by cutting each a bit smaller.)

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The Whole Grain Bakery – PEI’s First CSA-style Bakery

Coral Wood of The Whole Grain Bakery, Freetown, PEI
Coral Wood of The Whole Grain Bakery, Freetown, PEI

Today, I’m introducing you to a young baker from Freetown, PEI.     Coral Wood runs the Whole Grain Bakery, PEI’s first CSA-style bakery which just became operational in June, 2014. You may be familiar with farmers who operate CSA boxes – Community Supported Agriculture Boxes. This is where individuals (known as CSA members and sometimes referred to as shareholders) pay a certain amount to the farmer upfront at the beginning of the growing season in exchange for a share of the harvest as it becomes available. The bakery is operating on the same premise – CSA members pay Coral a set sum of money upfront, allowing her to purchase her equipment and ingredients – like start-up capital of sorts. Once a week for 18 weeks, the CSA members then receive a box of baked goods from the Bakery.

2014 Bakery Share at The Whole Grain Bakery, Freetown, PEI
2014 Bakery Share at The Whole Grain Bakery, Freetown, PEI

The contents of the boxes vary from week to week so customers get different products each week. Bread will be a staple in each week’s box and other items may include cookies, cinnamon rolls, pancake mix, granola, and/or different kinds of buns. A Bread Only share is also an option for customers. Currently, Coral has 15 CSA shareholders.

Sample of the Weekly CSA Box from The Whole Grain Bakery
Sample of the Weekly CSA Box from The Whole Grain Bakery

When she was nine years old, with the aid of a library book, Coral started making bread. As they say, the rest is history as she has been baking bread ever since and this is what led her to run her own bakery today.

When asked why she decided to operate her bakery CSA style, Coral says she has a couple of friends who are already CSA operators so she knew how it worked but, perhaps just as important, Coral says the CSA method is a good way to sell perishable foods like bread, for example, because the food is already pre-sold. There are no concerns about overstocking the shelves without knowing what the demand will be. Hence, no food waste.

Coral supports local producers by sourcing as many raw products as possible from local suppliers. For example, her raw organic wheat is bought from nearby neighbours at Barnyard Organics.

Raw Organic Wheat
Raw Organic Wheat

Using a tabletop flour grinder, Coral grinds the wheat just as she is ready to make a batch of bread or cookies – it can’t get much more fresh than that!

Grinding wheat for flour
Grinding wheat for flour

Coral’s brother is a beekeeper so the honey for her baked goods is sourced from the local beekeeper! Other organic grains and seeds are bought from Speerville Flour Mill in New Brunswick.

Coral, the oldest of eight children, was born in South Africa. She moved with her family first to British Columbia where they lived for several years before moving to PEI six years ago. Growing their own food on Maple Wood Farm in central PEI is a family affair. They also raise grass-fed beef, pigs, chickens, and sheep as well as grow all sorts of vegetables.

All of Coral’s bread is kneaded by a huge floor stand mixer which makes my KitchenAid look like a miniature toy!

Heavy-duty floor stand mixer kneading bread dough
Heavy-duty floor stand mixer kneading bread dough

Her commercial oven can bake 24 loaves of bread at a time or five large sheets of cookies or buns.

All loaf pans in the bakery are heavy-duty cast iron. Coral’s goal is to produce healthy food products that are as chemical-free as possible.

Some of Coral’s shareholders come to the bakery to pick up their weekly supply of home baking. However, on Thursday afternoons Coral, along with CSA vegetable grower Jen Campbell, meet many of their CSA shareholders at a designated parking lot in Summerside where they come to pick up their weekly CSA boxes.

Coral meeting a customer at the CSA pick-up in Summerside, PEI
Coral meeting a customer at the CSA pick-up in Summerside, PEI

Coral will do custom baking orders for individuals who are not regular CSA members but the items must be pre-ordered.

As well, even though this year’s CSA schedule is already operating, Coral tells me she will take on new CSA members on a pro-rated basis for the remainder of the current CSA season. For information on the bakery and to contact Coral, visit her website at www.thewholegrainbakery.ca

On a recent Thursday, I visited Coral at her bakery on the family farm. This is her busiest day as she prepares the contents for the week’s CSA boxes that would be available for CSA shareholders later in the day.

When I arrived, the bakery was a beehive of activity. Pans of freshly-made honey seed and chocolate chip cookies were cooling on the counters.

Honey Seed Cookies

Whole wheat bread was just going into the large oven.

Coral was mixing up another batch of bread.

A batch of hamburger buns had risen and was ready to be formed into the bun shapes.

Making hamburger buns
Making hamburger buns

All of this combined to fill Coral’s bright, clean, and very organized bakery with a heavenly scent. I brought home a loaf of Coral’s bread. From the photo below, you can see that it has beautiful, even texture. What you can’t tell from the photo but that I can assure you is that the bread also has exceptional flavour.

Multi-grain Bread from The Whole Grain Bakery in Freetown, PEI
Multi-grain Bread from The Whole Grain Bakery in Freetown, PEI

I think it is wonderful to see a young entrepreneur structuring her bakery around the use of wholesome, local natural products, following in the footsteps of what our forefathers did many years ago. Coral Wood is proof that baked goods can be made healthy and tasty without, as she herself puts it, including ingredients that few of us can even pronounce!

Sandwich made with hamburger bun from The Whole Grain Bakery
Sandwich made with hamburger bun from The Whole Grain Bakery

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Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry Muffins
Blueberry Muffins

I recently discovered a high-bush blueberry U-pick in Tryon, PEI.  These are so easy to pick and the bushes were just laden with these huge plump blueberries.

High-bush PEI Blueberries from the Tryon Blueberry U-Pick
High-bush PEI Blueberries from the Tryon Blueberry U-Pick

Grower, Jennifer Murray, says she has five varieties of these tasty blueberries growing in this field.

High-bush Blueberry Field in Tryon, PEI
High-bush Blueberry Field in Tryon, PEI

Unlike their tiny wild blueberry counterparts that grow low to the ground, these are easy and clean picking – no blueberry-stained fingers.  I have been back to their field twice since they opened just last week.

It took mere minutes for us to pick these blueberries!

I love these berries in a bowl with sugar and milk, on top of cereal, waffles, and pancakes.  They are lovely sweet berries.

Today, I am featuring these blueberries in muffins.  I have purposely chosen a light-colored batter that is cake-like in texture so that the blueberries really show up.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

I like the flavor combination of blueberries and orange so I have added some orange juice and finely grated orange rind to the batter.  I used my square muffin tins for these muffins but they would be equally as lovely (and just as tasty!) in traditional round muffin tins.   I do a lot of batch-baking and freezing of muffins and sweet breads to have them ready for weekday coffeebreaks at work.  I split and butter the muffins  before  individually wrapping and storing them in the freezer.  The benefit of these square tins is that I find the muffins pack away easier than the round ones do plus they add variety and interest to appearance of the baked goods.

Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
3½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tbsp finely grated orange rind

2 eggs
¾ cup milk
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
1½ cups fresh or frozen blueberries, tossed with about 1 tbsp flour

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Sift dry ingredients together into a large bowl.

Stir in the grated orange rind.

Make a well in the centre of the ingredients. Set bowl aside.

In a two-cup measuring cup or small bowl, beat eggs lightly.

Add milk, orange juice, oil, and vanilla. Stir or whisk together well.

Pour wet ingredients into the well in dry ingredients.

Stir just until most of the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Gently fold blueberries into batter.

Do not overmix. This will create a tough muffin and one that has blue batter!

Spoon mixture into greased or paper-lined muffin tins, filling each between ⅔ and ¾ full.

Bake 16-20 minutes or until muffins spring back to a light touch and/or a cake tester inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.

Yield: 12 muffins

 

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Fall Flavours Festival – A Month-long Feast of Fine PEI Flavours

When I travel, I am often asked “when is the best time to visit Prince Edward Island?”  Being an Islander who loves her home province, I admit to being somewhat biased (okay, ALOT biased) because anytime, in my opinion is a good time to be in PEI.  However, if you are a foodie, then September on PEI is the special month for you! That’s when the bountiful diverse harvest from our land and sea come together for the month-long annual Fall Flavours Festival with dozens of food-related events, big and small, across this beautiful Island.  This year’s Festival runs from September 5th -28th and it is chock-a-block full of food events and activities.

The Fall Flavours Festival began in 2008 as a 10-day project of the former Tourism Charlottetown group. According to Tracey Singleton, who was the Director of Marketing for Tourism Charlottetown at the time, the project had two objectives: 1) Capitalize on the growing trend of culinary tourism, and 2) extend the fall tourism season on PEI. Originators of the Festival had a clear vision for Fall Flavours: To create a fall culinary product that would highlight PEI’s key exports and drive tourism while establishing PEI as a culinary destination.

Cracking open the lobsters at the Lobster Party on the Beach at Cedar Dunes Park, West Point, PEI (2013)
Cracking open the lobsters at the Lobster Party on the Beach at Cedar Dunes Park, West Point, PEI (2013)

PEI has long been known for its fine foods, chief amongst them seafood and potatoes, as well as the Island hospitality…and oh, yes, the fabulous beaches that surround our Island. So, it’s a logical fit to combine our Island foods, culture, spectacular scenery, and hospitality into a month-long celebration.  Some events, like the Lobster Party on the Beach held at Cedar Dunes Park in West Point, even include dining in a tent right on the beautiful sandy beach.

Tents on the beach at Cedar Dunes for the Lobster Party on the Beach
Tents on the beach at Cedar Dunes for the Lobster Party on the Beach

There is no doubt that Fall Flavours is a success story that has grown from a 10-day Festival to the month-long extravaganza it is today. 

Singleton says, “PEI is becoming a Mecca for culinary tourism.”

Singleton says “PEI is becoming a Mecca for culinary tourism. Our artisan producers, our chefs, the reputation and awareness of PEI mussels, oysters, lobster, and potatoes have contributed to the [Festival’s] reputation as well as the relationship with Food Network Canada and its chefs have helped build credibility [of the Festival]”.

PEI lobsters and corn on the cob being cooked in a sandpit on the beach
PEI lobsters and corn on the cob being cooked in a sandpit on the beach

When deciding what events will be part of Fall Flavours and what local foods will be profiled, organizers focus on the five key food exports of PEI – lobster, oysters, mussels, beef, and potatoes.

At Toes, Taps & Taters in O'Leary, PEI (2013)
At Toes, Taps & Taters in O’Leary, PEI (2013)

One of the biggest challenges for Fall Flavours organizers is how to keep the Festival fresh and not continually repeat the same events in the exact same way year after year with the same celebrity chefs. Some events remain so popular, however, that they do repeat yearly – for example, the Lobster Party on the Beach, Chef on Board, A Taste of the North Shore, and Toes, Taps, and Taters. To keep those events fresh, organizers change the menu, entertainment, and celebrity chef host so the event has a new look and feel each year. Chef Anna Olson, returning for her third year at the Fall Flavours Festival, enjoys the opportunity to return to PEI for the Festival each year to host different events. She says it keeps her creative, gives her the chance to connect with guests in different ways and to make connections with so many people on the Island, hear their stories and the inevitable recipe-sharing that happens, too.

Applelicious (2013)
Gourmet dining at Applelicious (2013)

New events are added annually, some are retired, and others are put on hiatus for a year or two. Some of the new events this year (2014) include Oysters on the Pier in Northport, Lamb Luau on the Beach at Crowbush, and Feast of the Fathers in Charlottetown to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Charlottetown Conference where the now famous Fathers of Confederation met to lay the groundwork for what would later become Canada. Savour Victoria is back after a year off in 2013. Look for other returning favorites such as The Great Grilled Cheese Challenge and Beef and Blues.

One of the entries in the Great Grilled Cheese Challenge (2013)
One of the entries in the Great Grilled Cheese Challenge (2013)

Organizers tell me that patrons to Fall Flavours events are about 50/50 Islanders and tourists. Tourists come for Fall Flavours events to taste great Island food, meet acclaimed celebrity chefs, and experience the Island culture and way of life. Many are repeat visitors year after year. According to Singleton whose company, Versatile Management Group Inc., is now the event organizer for the Festival, over 12,000 tickets were sold for Fall Flavours events in 2013, an increase of 16% in ticket sales from the previous year.

Chef Massimo on Stage at the Great Grilled Cheese Challenge in North River, PEI (2013)
Chef Massimo on Stage at the Great Grilled Cheese Challenge in North River, PEI (2013)

There are several different categories of events that form part of the Fall Flavours Festival – there are Signature Events, Culinary Events, Culinary Adventures, and Restaurant Dining. Each year, there are a certain number of events that are classed as “Signature Events” – in fact, this year, there are 11 of them. An event classed as “Signature” means it will feature a celebrity chef host from Food Network Canada. Many of the events are interactive with opportunities to meet and greet the celebrity chefs.

Chef Lynn Crawford autographing her cookbook at the Toes, Taps & Taters Signature Event in O'Leary, PEI (2013)
Chef Lynn Crawford autographing her cookbook at the Toes, Taps & Taters Signature Event in O’Leary, PEI (2013)

Most will also have a cooking demonstration by the celebrity chef host. If the chefs are also cookbook authors, their books will be available for sale onsite and there will be opportunities to have the books signed by the chefs. Making appearances at this year’s Fall Flavours Festival Signature Events are Food Network Canada Celebrity Chefs Lynn Crawford, Anna Olson, Corbin Torraszeski, Chuck Hughes, Michael Smith, Mark MacEwan, and Massimo Capra. It’s a star-studded line-up!

Chef Anna Olson autographing her cookbooks at the 2013 Applelicious Event in Arlington, PEI
Chef Anna Olson autographing her cookbooks at the 2013 Applelicious Event in Arlington, PEI

In addition to the Signature Events, there are a number of culinary events and culinary adventures happening across the Island in September. There is a wide range of activities to suit all tastes.

As Chef Olson says, “I think PEI has achieved the impossible: offering “something for everyone”! The range of events and locations makes this Festival a truly delicious testament to the spirit of PEI.”

As Chef Olson says, “I think PEI has achieved the impossible: offering “something for everyone”! The range of events and locations makes this Festival a truly delicious testament to the spirit of PEI.”So, look for culinary events and adventures like the Beer Festival, clam brunches, roaming feasts, harvest meals, heritage dinners, Farm Day in the City, and culinary demonstrations and cooking classes at Holland College’s Culinary Boot Camps at the Culinary Institute of Canada. As well, several of the Island’s leading restaurants will feature special fall-inspired menus in September to coincide with the Fall Flavours Festival.

Some of the entries in the seafood chowder challenge at the PEI Shellfish Festival (2012)
Some of the entries in the seafood chowder challenge at the PEI International Shellfish Festival (2012)

Ticket sales are brisk for 2014 events, says Singleton. In fact, she says sales are up 100% over the same period last year and the Festival is still one month away. So, if you are interested in taking in any of the Fall Flavours events, best not delay getting your tickets. Many of the events sell out.

Prices for the signature events range from $19.00 + HST for The Great Island Grilled Cheese Challenge to $139. + HST for the gala Feast and Frolic dinner that is part of the Shellfish Festival. Prices for the culinary events and adventures vary in price. For a complete list of Fall Flavours activities and prices, visit their website at www.fallflavours.ca

Event organizers for Fall Flavours continue to amaze me each year with their creativity and attention to detail in carrying out the events. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for patrons this year. Whatever it is, I know it will exhibit the “WOW!” factor!

Interior of the tent set up in the middle of the apple orchard in Arlington, PEI, for the Applelicious Event (2013)
Interior of the tent set up in the middle of the apple orchard in Arlington, PEI, for the Applelicious Event (2013)

Click on the links below to read stories I have written in the past about individual Fall Flavours events:

PEI Shellfish Festival (2012):
Farm Day in the City (2012):
Savour Victoria (2012):
Toes, Taps, and Taters (2013)
Lobster Party on the Beach (2013)
Applelicious (2013)
The Great Island Grilled Cheese Challenge (2013)

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today. There are lots of ways to connect with “the Bistro” through social media:

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A Prince Edward Island-Inspired Menu for Food Day Canada 2014

PEI Mussels Steamed in Beer
PEI Mussels Steamed in Beer

It’s Food Day Canada today (August 2, 2014). This is a day to celebrate and enjoy all the great food that is grown, fished, or otherwise produced in Canada. Coming from Prince Edward Island, we are truly blessed with the abundance and variety of fresh food at our disposal.

As those of you who are regular followers of my food blog know, my focus is on eating local food whenever possible and supporting local food producers, be they farmers, fishers, or other food producers. And, this I do more than one day a year.  It’s a regular occurrence in our household.

Today, I am pleased to share with you the menu and photographs of what is on my table today for Food Day Canada 2014 and where the food came from. The menu includes foods that come from the waters that surround our Island and from the rich, red soil of our land.

Food Day Canada Menu 2014

Starter

PEI Mussels steamed in beer
and dipped in melted butter
Served with Multigrain Bread

Main

PEI Scallops pan-seared in butter
Boiled PEI potatoes
Medley of steamed yellow string beans, broccoli, and carrots

Dessert

Haskap Shortcake
Whipped cream and a rich haskap sauce
sandwiched between layers of old-fashioned sponge cake
with a drizzle of haskap sauce on top

 Wine Pairing

Chardonnay Seyval Blanc, Newman Estate Winery, Gladstone, PEI

Starter

Products & Sources: Mussels – Prince Edward Aqua Farms Inc., Springbrook, PEI
Beer – Gahan’s Sir John A’s Honey Wheat Ale from the Prince Edward Island Brewing Co., Charlottetown, PEI
Bread – Multigrain from the Whole Grain Bakery, Freetown, PEI
Butter – Amalgamated Dairies Limited (ADL), Summerside, PEI

I love mussels! PEI mussels are world famous and my mussels today came from Prince Edward Aqua Farms in Springbrook, on the North side of the Island.

There are many ways in which mussels can be prepared. They can be steamed in water, wine, beer, apple juice, or in just about any liquid that strikes your fancy. The key is to use just a small amount of liquid as too much liquid dilutes the flavour of the mussels. It is the steam that opens the mussel shells, not the amount of liquid used.

While I am not a beer drinker, my preferred liquid for steaming mussels is beer. Today, I am using Gahan’s Sir John A’s Honey Wheat Ale, brewed by the Prince Edward Island Brewing Co. in Charlottetown, PEI (click here to read the story I wrote on the Brewery).

While nothing other than the beer is really required for steaming the mussels, I like to add some herbs, spices, a bit of garlic, onion, carrots, and celery to the steaming liquid for additional flavour. It usually takes only about 7-10 minutes to steam a pot of mussels. The amount of liquid needed will, of course, depend on the size of the pot you are using and how many mussels you are steaming at a time. Remember to discard any shells that have not opened during the steaming process – do not pry them open. If they haven’t opened via the steaming process, they are not considered safe for consumption.

Dip the mussels in good PEI-churned butter (I’m using ADL butter today) and they are simply delicious. Some also like to use the steaming broth in which to dip bread, soaking up the flavors. My recipe for steamed mussels follows at the end of this posting.

Multigrain Bread from the Whole-Grain Bakery in Freetown, PEI
Multigrain Bread from the Whole-Grain Bakery in Freetown, PEI

The bread I am serving with this appetizer comes from the new Whole-Grain Bakery in Freetown, in the central part of the Province. This bakery uses locally-grown organic wheat which the baker grinds just at the time of the bread making. The bread on the table today is a multigrain bread that has a lovely dense texture and exceptionally good flavour. It makes a fine accompaniment to the steamed mussels.


Main Course

Products and Sources: Sea Scallops, fished off East Point, PEI, sourced from MR Seafoods, Charlottetown, PEI
Potatoes – Farm of Brent Craig, Tryon, PEI
Vegetables – Jewel’s Country Market, Marshfield, PEI

Scallops have long been a favourite of mine. Today’s scallops were fished off of East Point in the Eastern end of the Island and were sourced through MR Seafoods in Charlottetown. While there are a host of ways in which sea scallops can be prepared, sometimes I like them simply pan-seared in butter which is how I am serving them today – sear 1½ – 2 minutes on each side, in a hot pan with butter, and this is a quick, easy, simple, and tasty way to prepare scallops.

Pan-searing Sea Scallops in Butter
Pan-searing Sea Scallops in Butter

Add a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley and serve with a lemon wedge or your favourite tartar sauce, if desired.

Pan-seared PEI Scallops
Pan-seared PEI Scallops

With the early PEI potatoes now on the market, they were a logical choice to serve with the scallops. Just a slather of butter is all that is needed for these! The round white Island spuds come from the farm of Brent Craig of Tryon.

And here is the complete main course, all products of PEI.

This time of the year, there are so many fresh-from-the-garden veggies available. I chose the yellow-orange-green color scheme to add color to the plate: yellow string beans, carrots, and broccoli, which came from Jewel’s Country Market in Marshfield, PEI.

Dessert

Product: Haskap berries – Farm of Lynn and Becky Townshend, Rollo Bay, PEI

For dessert, I headed east to Rollo Bay for haskap berries to make a rich and sumptuous haskap shortcake. I recently shared my recipe for this delightful dessert and you can find the recipe by clicking here.

Haskap Shortcake
Haskap Shortcake

Wine Pairing

My wine of choice for my meal is a Chardonnay that comes from Newman Estate Winery in Gladstone, near Murray River in the Eastern part of PEI. Click here to read the story I previously wrote about my visit to this winery.


It’s so easy to prepare a tasty meal when local foods are sourced. The ingredients are super fresh because they haven’t traveled many miles for many days before they reach the dinner plate.

What’s on your menu to celebrate Food Day Canada today?

Steamed Mussels – My Island Bistro Kitchen Style

Ingredients:

1 cup Gahan’s Sir John A’s Honey Wheat Ale
½ cup onion, chopped
2 tbsp carrots, diced
2 tbsp celery, diced + some celery leaves
½ tsp puréed garlic
⅛ tsp coriander
⅛ tsp fennel
⅛ tsp thyme
⅛ tsp basil
½ tsp parsley
1 lb PEI mussels

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

In 5-litre pot, place all ingredients, except the mussels.

Bring mixture to a boil and boil gently over medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes.

Add mussels.

Increase heat to medium. Cover. Let steam for 7-10 minutes until shells have opened.

Scoop mussels into serving bowl(s). Serve hot with melted butter and your favourite bread which may also be dipped into the steaming broth that was used to steam the mussels.

Yield: 2 appetizer-sized servings.

 

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