All posts by Barbara99

Creamy Scallop Carbonara Recipe

My cooking is sometimes inspired by my travels. Often, before traveling, I will do some research to find out what foods and dishes are local to the area so I know what dishes to try when visiting those places or what foods to look for to bring back as mementos of the visit.

Italy is one of my favorite places to visit and, of course, it is home to wonderful pasta.  There is no shortage of places to buy authentic Italian pasta, like the one in the photo below in Venice.  In fact, you can usually pick up some packaged dry pasta at gift shops in Italian airports.  These kinds of items make great gifts to bring home to the foodies in your world.

Packages of dry pasta outside a shop in Venice, Italy
Italian Pasta (Venice, Italy)

So, this Creamy Scallop Carbonara recipe is inspired by my Italian travels.  It marries up two of my favorite foods – pasta and scallops. In fact, it is one of my most favorite ways to serve scallops. Carbonara is believed to have originated in Rome.  This pasta dish has basic, humble ingredients and really does prove that simplicity is often best. Pasta (usually spaghetti or linguine, though other pastas can work well, too), hard cheese (such as Parmigiano-Reggiano), eggs, and pork (pancetta, guanciale, or bacon) are the basis for making this dish.

Plate of carbonara with seared scallops and garnished with pea shoots
Scallop Carbonara

There are various methods for making carbonara but, what follows, is the method that works best for me. What makes a good carbonara is the sauce that is tossed with the cooked pasta.  No matter what method is used, the most important thing to remember is to always ensure that the egg sauce is not put over heat as the heat will cook the eggs too fast and a curdled or scrambled egg mixture is likely to result.

Plate of carbonara with seared scallops garnished with pea shoots. Cheese grater, loaf of artisan bread and bottle of wine in background
Creamy Scallop Carbonara

There is always a debate as to whether to use whole eggs or just egg yolks in a carbonara.  The problem I find with using whole eggs is that the whites will coagulate faster when they are combined with the hot pasta than the yolks will and this can result in a curdled sauce versus the desired creamy and glossy sauce.  The egg yolks provide the richness and flavour to this dish as well as the creamy texture of the sauce.  While, yes, the egg whites would provide more liquidity, I find (if additional liquid is required) it is best to add small amounts of the starchy water in which the pasta was cooked.  This will achieve the same goal and not risk a curdled, chalky sauce. In fact, sometimes I find little to no extra pasta water is required, depending on how much water I drag with the pasta as I transfer it from its cooking water to the sauce ingredients.

I don’t drain the cooked pasta. Rather, I use tongs to scoop up the pasta, dripping wet, from its cooking water and toss it into a heat-proof bowl containing the room-temperature egg yolks and cheese mixture.  The residual heat from the hot pasta will set the raw eggs as the pasta is quickly tossed about the bowl.  It is, therefore, important to keep the pasta moving quickly during this process to avoid scrambled eggs.  This method keeps the pasta cleaner looking than if it was to be tossed into the pan, for example, in which the pork and onion were cooked.  And, by not draining the pasta, it does not dry out and get cooled before it is tossed with the egg sauce. The hot pasta is needed to cook the egg yolks off heat. Because the pasta is still wet, I find I usually need very little extra water in the sauce though I do retain the pasta water just in case.  If extra water is needed, I recommend adding it in very small amounts at a time – no more than a half tablespoon or slightly less – as it is very easy to go from a creamy, velvety sauce to a sloppy soupy mess. The pasta certainly needs to be moist with the sauce but just not soupy.

Creamy carbonara wound around tines of a fork with plate of carbonara and loaf of artisan bread in background
Creamy Carbonara

Pork is a key ingredient in carbonara.  Guanciale or pancetta are perhaps the most authentic to use but I often will use bacon, especially if I take a notion for carbonara and don’t want to make a special trip to the supermarket for guanciale or pancetta.  That’s the nice thing about carbonara – so long as you have long pasta, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, bacon, and eggs on hand, this dish can be whipped up quickly.  While it is not always included in carbonara recipes, I do add a bit of onion that has been sautéed in the pan with some smashed garlic cloves that are later removed.  I find these do add a layer of taste to the flavor profile of this dish.

Plate of carbonara garnished with red cherry tomatoes and green fiddleheads
Creamy Scallop Carbonara

Carbonara can be served on its own, of course; however, adding some seared scallops does take this dish to another level! I have designed this dish for two servings; however, it can be doubled or tripled if a greater number of servings is required.  It can also be halved to one serving if you have only yourself to please! And, it can easily be made gluten free by using gluten-free spaghetti or linguine.

Seared bay scallop on end of fork with plate of carbonara in background
Creamy Scallop Carbonara

Make sure you have warmed plates or pasta bowls ready as this dish cools quickly once plated. I like to add pops of color to my carbonara with red and green being my favorite options.  Cherry or grape tomatoes, chopped green onion, pea shoots, parsley, or even bright green fiddleheads make this dish very attractive and appetizing.

Close up of plate of carbonara with seared scallops, red cherry tomatoes, and green fiddleheads
Creamy Scallop Carbonara

If you employ good, logical organizational skills, and work efficiently, you can have this restaurant-quality dish on the table in less than 30 minutes.  This makes it a meal that is do-able on a weeknight after arriving home from work.

Plate of carbonara topped with seared scallops and pea shoots. Loaf of artisan bread, glass of white wine and cheese are in background
Creamy Scallop Carbonara

Here’s how I make this meal in less than 30 minutes.

  • Start boiling the pot of water for the pasta
  • Set out all ingredients. Prep any ingredients that need prep work – e.g., grate the cheese, chop the pork and onion, smash the garlic cloves.  Set out the pots, pans, and cooking utensils needed.
  • Mix the egg yolks, cheese, salt, and pepper in a heat-proof bowl.
  • Heat the oven to low “warming” temperature to have it ready to keep the scallops warm.
  • Sear the scallops and transfer them, loosely tented with tin foil, to the warm oven.
  • Fry the pork
  • Cook the pasta
  • While the pasta is cooking, sauté the onion and garlic; add the pork.
  • Warm the plates or pasta bowls
  • Transfer pasta to prepared egg-cheese mixture in the bowl. Add some butter. Toss to set the egg.  Add the onion and pork.
  • Plate the pasta, add the scallops, garnish as desired, and enjoy.

[Printable recipe follows at end of post]

Creamy Scallop Carbonara

 
Ingredients:

2 large egg yolks, room temperature
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and Pepper, to taste

1 – 2 tsp olive oil
1 – 2 tbsp butter
12 – 14 large bay scallops, seasoned with salt and pepper

2 – 3 oz pancetta or guanciale or 2 slices bacon, chopped into small pieces

4 – 6 oz dry linguine or spaghetti pasta (wheat-based or gluten-free)

1 – 1½ tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed (but each left in one piece)

1 tbsp butter

Freshly cracked black pepper
Additional Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, if desired

Optional Garnishes:
Cherry or grape tomatoes
Fresh parsley or pea shoots
Green onion, sliced

Method:

Bring large pot of salted water to a boil in preparation for cooking the pasta.

In heat-proof mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks together and stir in one-quarter cup of the cheese along with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Heat oven to low “warming” temperature.

Melt 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil in small sauté pan over medium-high heat.  Add butter.  When butter has melted, add scallops and sear for about 2-3 minutes each side, until lightly browned.  Remove from heat and transfer to small tinfoil-lined baking sheet and loosely tent scallops with tin foil to keep them from drying out. Place in oven to keep scallops warm.

In small skillet, over medium heat, fry pancetta, guanciale, or bacon until the fat has been rendered out.  Remove pork with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Set aside.

Add the pasta to the boiling salted water and cook pasta al dente according to package directions.

While the pasta is cooking, discard about half the pork fat and add 1-1½ tablespoons of olive oil to the remaining fat in the skillet. Heat over medium heat then reduce heat to medium-low and add the onion and garlic, stirring and cooking until onion is almost transparent. Remove the skillet from the heat, discard the two smashed garlic cloves, and add the crumbled pork to the pan. Stir.

Using tongs, scoop the dripping wet pasta from its cooking water and add it to the egg-cheese mixture in bowl. Reserve pasta water. Add a tablespoon of butter.  Working quickly, toss pasta with tongs until eggs are set and sauce is thickened.  If mixture appears a bit dry, add enough pasta water, about one-half tablespoon at a time, to make the sauce creamy and pliable, but not soupy. Toss the onion and pork into the pasta.

Divide pasta mixture between two warmed plates or pasta bowls. Add some freshly cracked black pepper. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the pasta. Place 6-7 scallops on top of the pasta on each plate. Garnish with cherry or grape tomatoes, parsley or pea shoots, and/or green onion slices, if desired. Serve immediately.

Creamy Scallop Carbonara

On the table in less than 30 minutes, this restaurant quality creamy Scallop Carbonara is a super tasty pasta and scallop dish.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword carbonara, scallop carbonara
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 2
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 large egg yolks room temperature
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  • 12 – 14 large bay scallops seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 2 – 3 oz pancetta or guanciale or 2 slices bacon chopped into small pieces
  • 4 – 6 oz dry linguine or spaghetti pasta wheat-based or gluten-free
  • 1 - 1½ tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 tbsp onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic smashed (but each left in one piece)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Freshly cracked black pepper
  • Additional Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese if desired

Optional Garnishes:

  • Cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Fresh parsley or pea shoots
  • Green onion sliced

Instructions

  1. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil in preparation for cooking the pasta.
  2. In heat-proof mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks together and stir in one-quarter cup of the cheese along with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Heat oven to low “warming” temperature.
  4. Melt 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil in small sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add butter. When butter has melted, add scallops and sear for about 2-3 minutes each side, until lightly browned. Remove from heat and transfer to small tinfoil-lined baking sheet and loosely tent scallops with tin foil to keep them from drying out. Place in oven to keep scallops warm.
  5. In small skillet, over medium heat, fry pancetta, guanciale, or bacon until the fat has been rendered out. Remove pork with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Set aside.
  6. Add the pasta to the boiling salted water and cook pasta al dente according to package directions.
  7. While the pasta is cooking, discard about half the pork fat and add 1-1½ tablespoons of olive oil to the remaining fat in the skillet. Heat over medium heat then reduce heat to medium-low and add the onion and garlic, stirring and cooking until onion is almost transparent. Remove the skillet from the heat, discard the two smashed garlic cloves, and add the crumbled pork to the pan. Stir.
  8. Using tongs, scoop the dripping wet pasta from its cooking water and add it to the egg-cheese mixture in bowl. Reserve pasta water. Add a tablespoon of butter. Working quickly, toss pasta with tongs until eggs are set and sauce is thickened. If mixture appears a bit dry, add enough pasta water, about one-half tablespoon at a time, to make the sauce creamy and pliable, but not soupy. Toss the onion and pork into the pasta.
  9. Divide pasta mixture between two warmed plates or pasta bowls. Add some freshly cracked black pepper. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the pasta. Place 6-7 scallops on top of the pasta on each plate. Garnish with cherry or grape tomatoes, parsley or pea shoots, and/or green onion slices, if desired. Serve immediately.

 

Pin Me To Pinterest!

Plate of carbonara with seared scallops, cherry tomatoes, and green fiddleheads

Plate of Carbonara with seared scallops and pea shoots

 

Gluten-free Gumdrop Cookies

Five Gumdrop Cookies in front of a china tea pot and a pink and purple china cup and saucer
Gluten-free Gumdrop Cookies

These gluten-free Gumdrop Cookies are very easy to make and are super tasty.  They are soft and chewy, studded with colorful fruit-flavored gumdrops.

Three Gumdrop Cookies in front of an antique flour sifter
Gluten-free Gumdrop Cookies

To keep the cut gumdrops from sticking together, toss them with two tablespoons of powdered sugar which you may know as icing sugar or confectioner’s sugar. This will also add a layer of sweetness to the cookies.

Wire rack with seven gumdrop cookies placed before an antique flour sifter and mixing bowl
Gluten-free Gumdrop Cookies

Ensure the ingredients are at room temperature before mixing up a batch of these Gumdrop Cookies.  I find placing the cookie dough in the refrigerator to chill for about 45 minutes makes the dough less sticky and helps to prevent the cookies from spreading when they are placed in the oven.

Stack of Gumdrop Cookies in front of a pink and purple china cup and saucer sitting on a book
Gluten-free Gumdrop Cookies

These are great lunchbox cookies and are also a tasty treat with a fine cup of tea.  They make a showy addition to sweet trays, too.  These cookies freeze well.

Tray of Gumdrop Cookies
Gluten-free Gumdrop Cookies

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Gluten-free Gumdrop Cookies

Ingredients:

¾ cup butter, softened at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp powdered sugar (aka icing sugar or confectioner’s sugar)
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp almond flavoring

1¼ cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
¼ cup coconut flour
¼ cup almond flour
1 tsp zanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda

1 cup coarsely chopped fruit-flavored gumdrops
2 tbsp powdered sugar (aka icing sugar or confectioner’s sugar)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.  In small bowl, toss the gumdrops with 2 tablespoons of the powdered sugar, ensuring all cut sides of the gumdrops have been coated.

In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter until light and fluffy.  Gradually blend in the granulated and powdered sugars. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla and almond flavoring.

In separate bowl, sift together the three flours, zanthan gum, baking powder, and baking soda.  With mixer on slow speed, mix the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture until well blended.  Mix in the gumdrops by hand.

Cover and place dough in refrigerator for approximately 45 minutes. Using two tableware teaspoons, scoop chilled dough with one spoon while using the second spoon to slide the dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Space the cookies approximately 2” apart. Bake for approximately 12-13 minutes, just until cookies are barely set. Do not overbake. Remove cookies from oven and let cool on cookie sheet for 3-4 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container or freeze for longer storage.

Yield: Apx. 3 dozen

Gumdrop Cookie on saucer of pink and purple china cup and saucer
Gluten-free Gumdrop Cookies

 

Gluten-free Gumdrop Cookies

Buttery, soft, and chewy, these gluten-free Gumdrop Cookies are studded with colorful fruit-flavored gumdrops
Course Dessert
Keyword Gluten-free Gumdrop Cookies, Gumdrop Cookies
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup butter softened at room temperature
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar aka icing sugar or confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 large eggs room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ tsp almond flavoring
  • cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • ¼ cup almond flour
  • 1 tsp zanthan gum
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fruit-flavored gumdrops
  • 2 tbsp powdered sugar aka icing sugar or confectioner’s sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper. Set aside. In small bowl, toss the gumdrops with 2 tablespoons of the powdered sugar, ensuring all cut sides of the gumdrops have been coated.
  2. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter until light and fluffy. Gradually blend in the granulated and powdered sugars. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla and almond flavoring.
  3. In separate bowl, sift together the three flours, zanthan gum, baking powder, and baking soda. With mixer on slow speed, mix the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture until well blended. Mix in the gumdrops by hand.
  4. Cover and place dough in refrigerator for approximately 45 minutes. Using two tableware teaspoons, scoop chilled dough with one spoon while using the second spoon to slide the dough onto the prepared baking sheets. Space the cookies approximately 2” apart. Bake for approximately 12-13 minutes, just until cookies are barely set. Do not overbake. Remove cookies from oven and let cool on cookie sheet for 3-4 minutes then transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container or freeze for longer storage.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Apx. 3 dozen

Pin Me To Pinterest!

Classic Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Linzer Cookies
Classic Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Linzer cookies, so-named for the Austrian Linzer Torte they replicate, are simply two shortbread-type cookies sandwiched together with jam.  The cookies are commonly filled with raspberry jam which produces a very showy cookie. These cookies are traditionally found on sweet trays at Christmas but they are wonderful any time of the year.  So, there is no need to wait for Christmas to enjoy them! You can legitimately actually have two cookies without feeling guilty when you eat one of these sandwich cookies – bonus!

Raspberry Linzer Cookies
Raspberry Linzer Cookies

The Linzer Torte, said to be the oldest cake recipe in the world and dating back to the late 1600s, is believed to have originated in the City of Linz in Austria.  Made with a rich buttery crust of primarily butter, flour, and ground nuts, the torte was traditionally filled with black currant preserves and topped with a lattice crust that allowed the preserves to shine through.

Linzer cookies are a take on the Linzer Torte put into a cookie format.  Two cookies are sandwiched together with jam and the top cookie is generously dusted with powdered sugar making it very showy. To keep the jam filling visible, a simple cut-out is made in the top cookie.

Linzer Cookies
Raspberry Linzer Cookies

The ingredients for the cookies are fairly basic and the texture closely resembles shortbread.  That is to say, the cookies have a short, crisp, yet tender texture.

Linzer Cookies
Texture of Linzer Cookies

While Linzer Cookies are obviously different than a torte, several of the ingredients are the same – butter, flour, and ground almonds.  I add small amounts of cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves but in such small amounts that the flavours are very subtle. Some grated orange rind, vanilla, and almond flavoring are the only other injections of flavour into the rich buttery dough.

Linzer Cookies
Classic Raspberry Linzer Cookies

To make these cookies gluten free, replace the 2¼ cups all-purpose flour with an equal amount of gluten-free 1-to-1 baking flour.

Linzer Cookies
Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Tips for Making Linzer Cookies

  • Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature.
  • Do not overmix or overhandle the dough. Just mix it enough so it will cling together.
  • Divide the dough in half and form each half into a disc. Wrap the discs, separately, in plastic wrap and chill the dough for 35-45 minutes or until dough is firm enough to roll out.  This will make the dough less sticky and easier to handle. The dough can be made up to a day ahead but it will need to be removed from the refrigerator for several minutes before rolling it out as it will be far too hard to allow the dough to be rolled out without it cracking or breaking apart.
  • Special Linzer cookie cutters (seen at top of photo below) exist for cutting out these two-part cookies. These cutters have a plunger attachment that allows different interchangeable cut-out inserts to be used to cut out small shapes, like hearts, circles, and diamonds, in the centers of cookies.  This cut-out, of course, allows the pretty jam or preserves to show through. If you don’t have a Linzer cutter, simply cut out the shape of the cookie with any 2” cookie cutter and then use a small 1” cookie cutter to cut out the center hole in half the cookie batch.  Many sets of nesting cookie cutters have various sizes of cutters suitable for this purpose.
Linzer Cookies
Raspberry Linzer Cookies

 

  • Work with one dough disc at a time. Roll the dough to about 1/8” thick.  Two cookies will be sandwiched together so about 1/8” thickness is thick enough for each cookie half.  Make sure you cut out an even number of whole cookies and cookies with the cut-outs so you will have matched pairs.
  • The cookies, once cut out and placed 1” apart on parchment-lined baking sheets need to go back into the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. This is an important step because the fat in the chilled cookies will take longer to melt once the cookies are placed in the oven than would room-temperature cookies. The chilling will mean the cookies will spread less as they bake and we want these cookies to hold their shape perfectly, especially the cut-out centers in the top cookies.
  • Do not overbake the cookies. Bake them for 11-13 minutes, just until the cookies are set and have a light golden color.
  • Dust the cut-out cookie tops with powdered sugar BEFORE placing them over the filled cookie bottoms (a small fine wire mesh sieve works well for this or a small metal mesh-topped can can also be used (seen in photo above)). If you wait to sugar-coat the cookies until after they have been assembled, the sugar will cover the jam filling and cause it to become cloudy and lose its clear, shimmery appearance.
Linzer Cookies
Sugar-dusted Cookie Tops for Linzer Cookies

 

  • Any red jam or black currant jam can be used in these cookies. My preference is to use raspberry as the flavour blends well with the ground almonds and the orange flavoring in the cookies.  I do recommend, whatever type of jam is used, that it be seedless. Do not spread the jam right to the outside edge of the bottom cookies as the jam will ooze out.  Keep the jam in the center of the cookie bottoms.  When the top cookie is placed on the jam-filled bottom, it will spread the jam further out in the cookie.  No jam should be visible on the outside edges of Linzer cookies.  If a bit more jam is desired in the cookies, use a tiny coffee spoon to carefully drop a bit more jam into the center of the assembled sandwich cookies.
Linzer Cookies
Classic Raspberry Linzer Cookies

 

  • It is not recommended to freeze the assembled cookies for a couple of reasons. First, the jam is likely to soak into the cookies, especially as they thaw.  This will cause the cookies to lose their crisp texture.  Second, it takes up more container and freezer space to freeze the cookies in single layers so that the powdered sugar does not fall off the cookies or transfer onto the jam-filled centers, marring the look of the cookies.
  • Store filled cookies in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
Linzer Cookies
Classic Raspberry Linzer Cookies

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Classic Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Ingredients:

2¼ cups all-purpose flour (to make them gluten free, substitute an equal amount of gluten-free 1-to-1 baking flour
¾ cup finely ground almonds
1 tbsp cornstarch
¾ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom
Pinch cloves

1 cup butter, room temperature (no substitutes)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 tbsp powdered sugar (aka icing sugar or confectioner’s sugar)
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp almond flavoring
1 tsp finely grated orange rind

Seedless raspberry jam (1/2  – ¾ cup)

Additional powdered sugar for dusting cookies

Method:

Sift dry ingredients together.  Set aside.

In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed until fluffy and pale yellow.  Slowly add the sugars and cream well for 2-3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Reduce speed to low and add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla and almond flavoring as well as the grated orange rind. Mix to combine well.

With mixer set on low speed, gradually blend in the dry ingredients, mixing just until dry ingredients are fully incorporated.  Do not overmix.  Turn dough on to a lightly floured surface and gather the dough, working it just enough that it clings together.  Divide the dough into two equal portions and form each half into a round disc.  Wrap discs separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 35-45 minutes, or until firm enough to roll.

On lightly floured surface, roll a dough disc into 1/8” thickness.  Using a 2” Linzer cookie cutter (either straight edged or fluted), cut cookies from one half the dough.  Gather dough scrapes and continue cutting out the cookies until the dough is used up. These will be the cookie bottoms. Roll out remaining dough disc in the same manner for the cookie tops.  To cut out the cookie tops, use the same Linzer cutter but fitted with one of the insert shapes to cut out a small 1” shape in the center of each cookie. Repeat until an equal number of cookies with cut out centers have been cut as there are whole cookies. If you do not have a Linzer cookie cutter, use any 2” cookie cutter and a 1” cutter of any shape for the center cut-out of half the cookies.

Place cookies about 1” apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.  Refrigerate cookies for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F. Bake cookies on the middle oven rack for 11-13 minutes, or just until cookies are set and a light golden color. Do not overbake. Remove cookies from oven and cool on baking sheet for about 3-4 minutes then, using a flat lifter/spatula, transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

To assemble sandwich cookies, place the cookie halves that have the cut-out centers on a cutting board (these will be the top cookies).  Dust the cookies generously with sifted powdered sugar, covering the cookies with an even coating of the sugar.  On the flat side (i.e., the underneath side) of the whole cookies, spread about 1 – 1½ teaspoons jam in the center of each cookie, being careful not to spread the jam all the way to the cookie edges (stay within ¼” of the cookie edge).  Place the cut-out sugar-dusted cookie tops over the jam-spread bottom cookies to create the sandwich. If desired, use a tiny spoon to carefully add a bit more jam into the center cut-out of each cookie.

Store cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.  To freeze cookies, package unassembled cookies between layers of parchment paper in an airtight container.  Bring cookies to room temperature before filling with jam and assembling as above described.

Yield:  Approximately 26 sandwiched cookies.

Classic Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Sugar-dusted jam-filled Linzer Cookies have a tender and crisp texture and buttery flavour complimented by ground almonds and subtle spice seasonings.
Course Dessert
Keyword Linzer Cookies
Servings 26
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • cups all-purpose flour (to make them gluten free substitute an equal amount of gluten-free 1-to-1 baking flour
  • ¾ cup finely ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp cardamom
  • Pinch cloves
  • 1 cup butter room temperature (no substitutes)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp powdered sugar aka icing sugar or confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ tsp almond flavoring
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange rind
  • Seedless raspberry jam 1/2 – ¾ cup
  • Additional powdered sugar for dusting cookies

Instructions

  1. Sift dry ingredients together. Set aside.
  2. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream the butter at medium speed until fluffy and pale yellow. Slowly add the sugars and cream well for 2-3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Reduce speed to low and add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and almond flavoring as well as the grated orange rind. Mix to combine well.
  3. With mixer set on low speed, gradually blend in the dry ingredients, mixing just until dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Do not overmix. Turn dough on to a lightly floured surface and gather the dough, working it just enough that it clings together. Divide the dough into two equal portions and form each half into a round disc. Wrap discs separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 35-45 minutes, or until firm enough to roll.
  4. On lightly floured surface, roll a dough disc into 1/8” thickness. Using a 2” Linzer cookie cutter (either straight edged or fluted), cut cookies from one half the dough. Gather dough scrapes and continue cutting out the cookies until the dough is used up. These will be the cookie bottoms. Roll out remaining dough disc in the same manner for the cookie tops. To cut out the cookie tops, use the same Linzer cutter but fitted with one of the insert shapes to cut out a small 1” shape in the center of each cookie. Repeat until an equal number of cookies with cut out centers have been cut as there are whole cookies. If you do not have a Linzer cookie cutter, use any 2” cookie cutter and a 1” cutter of any shape for the center cut-out of half the cookies.
  5. Place cookies about 1” apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Refrigerate cookies for about 20 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F. Bake cookies on the middle oven rack for 11-13 minutes, or just until cookies are set and a light golden color. Do not overbake. Remove cookies from oven and cool on baking sheet for about 3-4 minutes then, using a flat lifter/spatula, transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. To assemble sandwich cookies, place the cookie halves that have the cut-out centers on a cutting board (these will be the top cookies). Dust the cookies generously with sifted powdered sugar, covering the cookies with an even coating of the sugar. On the flat side (i.e., the underneath side) of the whole cookies, spread about 1 – 1½ teaspoons jam in the center of each cookie, being careful not to spread the jam all the way to the cookie edges (stay within ¼” of the cookie edge). Place the cut-out sugar-dusted cookie tops over the jam-spread bottom cookies to create the sandwich. If desired, use a tiny spoon to carefully add a bit more jam into the center cut-out of each cookie.
  8. Store cookies in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. To freeze cookies, package unassembled cookies between layers of parchment paper in an airtight container. Bring cookies to room temperature before filling with jam and assembling as above described.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Approximately 26 sandwiched cookies.

Pin Me To Pinterest!

Linzer Cookies
Classic Raspberry Linzer Cookies

 

How to Make Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon
Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

Doesn’t the mere sound of the name Beef Bourguignon conjure up the notion that it is some exotic dish you would expect to find in a French bistro?  Guess what?  You can easily make this classic French cuisine dish at home! Simple ingredients, economical cuts of beef, and time are all that is required.

Braising

Made with basic ingredients, what makes Beef Bourguignon so wonderful is the cooking method known as braising.  Used in many recipes, braising is simply using a long, slow, moist heat method of cooking tougher cuts of meat in a liquid such as red wine and/or beef stock to tenderize the meat.

This method of cooking is great to use for cuts of meat known to be on the tougher side because the combination of moist heat, low cooking temperature, lengthy cooking time, and a flavorful liquid breaks down the connective tissues (collagen) in the meat, melting it into a silky gelatin. This results in divinely tender and succulent meat that will easily break apart with a fork.

Cuts of meat suitable for braising are cuts of muscular meats like chuck or beef cheeks, for example.  These cuts from the highly exercised parts of the animal are ones known to have lots of collagen that, like magic, when cooked long and slow, turn tough cuts of meat into soft gelatin that will break apart with the touch of a fork. If you don’t need a knife to cut the meat, you have yourself a dandy Beef Bourguignon!  Using more premium cuts of beef will not become more fork tender than the cheaper cuts in this dish so, save your money, and buy the economical cuts.

Braising can be done on the cooktop over low heat but oven braising will provide more even heating and will reduce the risk of burning the meat.  Braising on the stovetop will result in more heat directly hitting the bottom of the pot specifically as opposed to oven braising where the heat is more evenly distributed to all sides of the cooking vessel.

Beef Bourguignon is not difficult to make but there are several steps involved and some time has to be dedicated to it.  It’s not a dish you would start for dinner after arriving home from work at 5:00pm.

There are many versions of this dish and various ways in which to prepare it.  What follows is the method that works well for me.

Choosing the Meat

Both pork and beef are used in this dish.

Pork

Pork lardons add a lovely texture and layer of flavour richness to Beef Bourguignon..  Lardon is another name for thick, fatty salt pork, much thicker than the thin bacon strips found, pre-packaged, in supermarkets.  While the lardons, themselves, lend wonderful texture and flavor to the dish, it is their rendered fat that is prized for the rich flavour it gives to the beef as it is seared before it is braised.

Lardons
Pork Lardons

I recommend using the lardons over the thin bacon because the thickness of the lardons allows them to keep their shape when fried.  You may need to go directly to a butcher shop (as opposed to a standard supermarket) to get the lardons.  I went to a local butcher, KJL Meats, here in Charlottetown and, as soon as I said what I was making, the butcher knew exactly what I was looking for and he actually cut the lardons into suitably-sized chunks for me!

The lardons are cooked until the fat in them has been rendered out. That flavorful fat is then used to sear the beef, keeping all the wonderful flavor in the dish.

Lardons
Pork Lardons

Beef

 As mentioned, one of the best things about Beef Bourguignon is that economical cuts of beef are used.  My preference is to use beef cheeks for this recipe though chuck also works very well.  Some marbling in the meat is also beneficial as the slow cooking process will melt the fat and turn it into a melt-in-your-mouth gelatin. The transformation is absolutely amazing!

To get exactly what I want for meat, I go directly to a local butcher – it’s local PEI beef and it’s fresh.  The meat in the photographs came from MacQuarrie’s Meats in Milton, on the outskirts of Charlottetown. Depending on where you live and what your local butchers keep on hand, you may need to pre-order specific cuts, such as beef cheeks, from your local butcher.

Beef Cheeks
Beef Cheeks

If there happens to be any excess hard fat or tendons still visible on the meat, remove them.  Pat the meat dry with paper towel – this will help the cornstarch or flour stick to the meat when it is dredged before being seared.  Season the meat with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Beef Cheeks
Beef Cheeks cut for Beef Bourguignon

Cut the meat into rather large chunks – approximately 2” pieces.  This is meant to be a rustic dish and cutting the meat any smaller may cause the meat to dry out faster and it won’t have the same presentation as if the chunks are larger.  Once the meat is dredged in the cornstarch or flour, sear it over medium-high heat in the lardon fat.

Searing Beef for Beef Bourguignon
Searing Beef for Beef Bourguignon

Searing the meat before simmering it in the cooking liquid is known as brown braising. This will add depth of flavour as the meat caramelizes while a brown crust forms on the beef. This ‘browning” will not only add flavor but it will help produce a rich brown sauce.  Don’t try to speed up the process by over-crowding all the meat pieces into the pan at once.  Work in batches and leave some space between the chunks of meat so they brown nicely. The aim of this process is to sear the meat, not steam it or cook it all the way through.

Searing Beef for Beef Bourguignon
Searing Beef for Beef Bourguignon

Making the Bouquet Garni

Fresh herbs really do make the difference in this dish. You will need two to three sprigs each of fresh thyme and parsley along with two dried bay leaves.  These are easily tied together with kitchen string/twine.  Insert 4 whole cloves into the center of a 6” strip of celery and tie the herbs to the celery.  This bouquet will get dropped into the braising liquid to flavour it as the meat cooks.

Bouquet Garni
Bouquet Garni

When the Bourguignon is cooked, the bouquet garni is removed and discarded.

Preparing the Braising Liquid

Once the meat has been seared, there will be caramelized brown bits (known as fond) left in the pan.  This bears wonderful flavour and will help to color the braising liquid.  Deglaze the pan with either red wine, brandy, or beef stock, scraping up the flavorful brown bits. I find the brandy adds a layer of flavour complexity, richness, and depth to this dish.

Some basic aromatics always form a good basis for any braising dish.  Cook some coarsely chopped onion in some olive oil and butter.  Butter (which gives fabulous flavour) tends to burn easily which causes some flavour deterioration.  Olive oil, however, does not burn so quickly so heating it first then adding the butter prevents the butter from burning and yet still gives the dish some buttery flavour.  Add some garlic and just a bit of tomato paste and then, of course the red wine which, next to the beef, is the signature ingredient in Beef Bourguignon. It’s really not Beef Bourguignon if there is no red wine in this dish!

The acidic properties in the red wine not only add flavour to the dish but, importantly, soften muscle fibres and generate melt-in-your-mouth quality meat.  I recommend using a dry red wine. While technically any dry red wine will work in this dish, I like to use a Pinot Noir that has earthy notes to it – it tends to be a wine that goes well with all sorts of red meat.  There is no need to go with the best wine on the market for this dish but I do suggest using one you would be prepared to drink. When I am pairing a wine to drink with Beef Bourguignon, I use the same wine at the table as has been used in the Bourguignon.  Don’t use a supermarket “cooking wine” for Beef Bourguignon.  No, just don’t do it!

Beef Bourguignon
Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

Slowly boiling the wine for 4-5 minutes will burn off the raw alcohol.  This dish is not meant to reek of the wine; rather, the role of the wine is, yes, partly to flavour the sauce in a good way but, more importantly, to tenderize the meat.

Any beef stock can be used in this dish, either homemade (click here for my recipe) or purchased.  Adding the beef stock (as opposed to only using wine), adds a layer of flavour.  In my opinion, using only wine would make the resulting sauce too strong.  If the first taste I get from Beef Bourguignon is a heavy wine taste, that tells me too much wine was used in the braising liquid. The hallmark of a well-prepared dish is the subtle layers of flavours that build the overall flavour profile and one flavour should not dominate the others in a negative way.

With braising, the braising liquid should not entirely cover the meat; rather, it should cover no more than about one-half to two-thirds of the meat. If you “swim” the meat, that’s a stew and, unlike with the braising method, tough cuts of meat will not tenderize using a stewing method. In addition, adding too much liquid will dilute the sauce and flavour.  It’s also important that the braising liquid just simmer, not boil. Check the Bourguignon as it braises.  If it is actively bubbling/vigorously boiling, reduce the oven temperature.

Keep the pot covered tightly to keep the moist heat in. Otherwise, the braising liquid will evaporate and the meat will be subject to some drying. Dutch ovens are often used for braising because they have the width for the contents to evenly cook and they have tight fitting covers. Other cooking vessels with tight-fitting lids, such as a high-sided casserole dish, will work equally well.  The important thing is to use a vessel that allows the sauce to surround, not completely submerge, the meat.

There are many schools of thought on what the “correct” braising temperature should be.  I am not sure there is one. My preference is around 275°F.  The aim is to keep the braising liquid from actively boiling because the premise behind braising is to let the meat cook very slowly allowing it to tenderize.  High temperatures can result in dryer meat. Additionally, since my recipe calls for a starch thickener for the braising liquid, a high cooking temperature will break down the starch causing it to lose its thickening power resulting in a watery thin sauce.  As a general rule of thumb, or frame of reference, the sauce should be thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Vegetables

Beef Bourguignon does not contain a lot of vegetables, or varieties of vegetables.  Typically, it only has carrots, mushrooms, and either tiny pearl onions or shallots.  It’s all about the beef in this dish and the other additions serve only as flavour contributors that, themselves, absorb the wonderful savory flavours in the braising liquid.  There are enough vegetables in the Bourguignon, however, that it generally is not necessary to add a side of vegetables (except perhaps mashed potatoes) to serve with the Bourguignon.

 Beef Bourguignon
Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

Serving Suggestions

My favorite way to serve Beef Bourguignon is with whipped mashed potatoes seasoned with butter and garlic. The wonderfully rich sauce from the Bourguignon pairs very well with the potatoes.

Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon Served with Whipped Garlic Seasoned Mashed Potatoes
Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon Served with Whipped Garlic Seasoned Mashed Potatoes

Beef Bourguignon can also be served on, or with, plain toast or garlic bread which can be used to soak up the flavorful sauce. You want to capture every last bite of this delectable sauce!

 Beef Bourguignon
Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

 

This dish freezes well and is part of my batch cooking repertoire.  It reheats well in the microwave.

Beef Bourguignon
Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

The recipe for Beef Bourguignon may look a bit complicated but it really is not if the process is organized.  Read through the recipe and plan your work and you can produce restaurant-quality food at home.  Measure out all the ingredients and do all the chopping and ingredient preparation before beginning the actual cooking.

[Printable recipe follows at end of post]

Beef Bourguignon

Ingredients:

For the bouquet garni:
3 sprigs fresh thyme
3 sprigs fresh parsley
2 large dried bay leaves
4 whole cloves
6” piece of celery rib

2 tsp olive oil
7 oz bacon lardons, cut into chunks approximately ¼“ – 1/3“ thick x 1” long

1½ – 2 lbs beef cheeks or beef chuck
3 tbsp cornstarch or flour
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

1½ tbsp brandy (or red wine)

1 tbsp olive oil
½ tbsp butter
½ cup onion, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 2/3 cup dry red wine
1½ cups warm beef stock

1 tbsp cornstarch or flour
2 – 2½ tbsp beef stock (or water)

1 tbsp butter
½ tbsp olive oil
12 oz baby carrots
8 – 10 small shallots or pearl onions

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
8 oz small button mushrooms, halved or quartered (depending on size of mushrooms)
½ cup dry red wine

Method:

Make a bouquet garni consisting of 3 sprigs each of fresh thyme and parsley tied with kitchen string/twine along with 2 large bay leaves.  Insert 4 whole cloves into center of a 6” piece of celery rib. Tie the herbs and bay leaves to the celery rib. Set aside.

Heat 2 tsp olive oil in sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the bacon lardons.  Cook over medium-low heat for approximately 12-15 minutes, until lardons are crisp and brown and the fat has been rendered from the lardons.  Remove the lardons with a slotted spoon and transfer to paper towel-lined bowl or plate. Reserve the rendered fat in the pan.

Pat beef dry with paper towel. Season the beef with salt and pepper and cut into chunks approximately 2” in size, removing any excess fat, tendons, and sinew.

Place the cornstarch or flour and the sea salt and pepper into small plastic bag.  Shake well to mix.  Set aside.

Increase the heat under the sauté pan containing the lardon fat to medium-high.  Working in small batches, two to three chunks at a time, dredge the beef chunks in the cornstarch or flour mixture, shaking off any excess.  Place the beef chunks in the hot pan, leaving space between each chunk.  Sear the meat.  Using tongs, turn the meat to brown all sides.  Do not overcook – just cook long enough to brown the beef, a minute or two per side.  Transfer the seared meat to a 4-quart Dutch oven, casserole dish, or small roaster.

Preheat oven to 275°F.

Deglaze the sauté pan in which the beef was seared using either 1½ tbsp brandy, red wine, or beef stock scraping up any caramelized brown bits remaining in the pan after the meat was seared.  Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil then the ½ tablespoon of butter.  Add the chopped onions and, over medium heat and stirring constantly, sauté until the onions begin to become translucent.  Add the tomato paste and chopped garlic and stir to prevent burning, about 20-30 seconds.

Add 1 2/3 cups red wine to the onion-garlic mixture.  Increase heat to high and bring to a boil then immediately reduce heat to a slow boil.  Boil slowly for 4-5 minutes to boil off the raw alcohol in the wine.  Add the beef stock.  Cook over low heat 2-3 minutes. Stir in half of the bacon lardons, reserving the remainder.

Transfer the onion, wine, beef stock, and lardon mixture to the casserole containing the seared meat.  Add the prepared bouquet garni, pressing it gently into the braising liquid. The liquid should cover approximately one-half to two-thirds of the meat.  Place lid on casserole dish and transfer it to the preheated oven and cook for about 2½ hours.  If the braising liquid is still very thin at the 2½ hour point, add about 1 tablespoon of cornstarch or flour whisked together with 2 – 2½ tablespoons water or beef stock and some of the hot braising liquid to temper the mixture.  Stir into braising liquid gently. Regardless whether additional thickening agent is added, return the casserole to oven to cook for 30 more minutes, or until meat is tender to the touch of a fork.

Meanwhile, add 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter to a clean sauté pan placed over medium high heat.  Add the carrots and whole shallots or pearl onions.  Stir fry for about 5 minutes until the carrots are slightly beginning to soften and both the carrots and onions are lightly tanned with color.  Add the stir-fried vegetables to the meat casserole.  Return the lid to the casserole and continue slow cooking for approximately 20 minutes.  After the 20 minutes, if the braising liquid still does not coat the back of a spoon, add an additional ½ to 1 tablespoon cornstarch or flour mixed with 2 tablespoons beef stock or water and a little hot braising liquid, whisked together.

In clean sauté pan, over medium-high heat, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter.  Add the mushrooms and stir fry for 2 minutes.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add the remaining lardons.  Stir fry for 2-3 minutes longer then reduce heat to medium-low and add ½ cup red wine. Cook for 4-5 minutes longer at a very slow boil.  Transfer mixture to the casserole and cook for 45 minutes longer, or until carrots are cooked and the beef breaks apart easily with the light pressure from a fork. Remove and discard the bouquet garni.  Serve with whipped garlic potatoes, toasted French bread, or a crusty bread.

Yield:  Apx. 8 servings

Beef Bourguignon

One of the best French classic dishes, Beef Bourguignon is made with beef, pork, carrots, onions, and mushrooms all braised and slow cooked in a rich red wine and beef stock sauce
Course Main Course
Cuisine French
Keyword Beef Bourguignon
Servings 8
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 2 large dried bay leaves
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 6 ” piece of celery rib
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 7 oz bacon lardons, cut into chunks approximately ¼“ – 1/3“ thick x 1” long
  • 1½ - 2 lbs beef cheeks or beef chuck
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch or flour
  • Fine sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • tbsp brandy, or red wine
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tbsp butter
  • ½ cup onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 2/3 cup dry red wine
  • cups warm beef stock
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch or flour
  • 2 – 2½ tbsp beef stock, or water
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • 12 oz baby carrots
  • 8 – 10 small shallots or pearl onions
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 8 oz small button mushrooms, halved or quartered (depending on size of mushrooms)
  • ½ cup dry red wine

Instructions

  1. Make a bouquet garni consisting of 3 sprigs each of fresh thyme and parsley tied with kitchen string/twine along with 2 large bay leaves. Insert 4 whole cloves into center of a 6” piece of celery rib. Tie the herbs and bay leaves to the celery rib. Set aside.
  2. Heat 2 tsp olive oil in sauté pan over medium heat. Add the bacon lardons. Cook over medium-low heat for approximately 12-15 minutes, until lardons are crisp and brown and the fat has been rendered from the lardons. Remove the lardons with a slotted spoon and transfer to paper towel-lined bowl or plate. Reserve the rendered fat in the pan.
  3. Pat beef dry with paper towel. Season the beef with salt and pepper and cut into chunks approximately 2” in size, removing any excess fat, tendons, and sinew.
  4. Place the cornstarch or flour and the sea salt and pepper into small plastic bag. Shake well to mix. Set aside.
  5. Increase the heat under the sauté pan containing the lardon fat to medium-high. Working in small batches, two to three chunks at a time, dredge the beef chunks in the cornstarch or flour mixture, shaking off any excess. Place the beef chunks in the hot pan, leaving space between each chunk. Sear the meat. Using tongs, turn the meat to brown all sides. Do not overcook – just cook long enough to brown the beef, a minute or two per side. Transfer the seared meat to a 4-quart Dutch oven, casserole dish, or small roaster.
  6. Preheat oven to 275°F.
  7. Deglaze the sauté pan in which the beef was seared using either 1½ tbsp brandy, red wine, or beef stock scraping up any caramelized brown bits remaining in the pan after the meat was seared. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil then the ½ tablespoon of butter. Add the chopped onions and, over medium heat and stirring constantly, sauté until the onions begin to become translucent. Add the tomato paste and chopped garlic and stir to prevent burning, about 20-30 seconds.
  8. Add 1 2/3 cups red wine to the onion-garlic mixture. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil then immediately reduce heat to a slow boil. Boil slowly for 4-5 minutes to boil off the raw alcohol in the wine. Add the beef stock. Cook over low heat 2-3 minutes. Stir in half of the bacon lardons, reserving the remainder.
  9. Transfer the onion, wine, beef stock, and lardon mixture to the casserole containing the seared meat. Add the prepared bouquet garni, pressing it gently into the braising liquid. The liquid should cover approximately one-half to two-thirds of the meat. Place lid on casserole dish and transfer it to the preheated oven and cook for about 2½ hours. If the braising liquid is still very thin at the 2½ hour point, add about 1 tablespoon of cornstarch or flour whisked together with 2 – 2½ tablespoons water or beef stock and some of the hot braising liquid to temper the mixture. Stir into braising liquid gently. Regardless whether additional thickening agent is added, return the casserole to oven to cook for 30 more minutes, or until meat is tender to the touch of a fork.
  10. Meanwhile, add 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter to a clean sauté pan placed over medium high heat. Add the carrots and whole shallots or pearl onions. Stir fry for about 5 minutes until the carrots are slightly beginning to soften and both the carrots and onions are lightly tanned with color. Add the stir-fried vegetables to the meat casserole. Return the lid to the casserole and continue slow cooking for approximately 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes, if the braising liquid still does not coat the back of a spoon, add an additional ½ to 1 tablespoon cornstarch or flour mixed with 2 tablespoons beef stock or water and a little hot braising liquid, whisked together.
  11. In clean sauté pan, over medium-high heat, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp butter. Add the mushrooms and stir fry for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and add the remaining lardons. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes longer then reduce heat to medium-low and add ½ cup red wine. Cook for 4-5 minutes longer at a very slow boil. Transfer mixture to the casserole and cook for 45 minutes longer, or until carrots are cooked and the beef breaks apart easily with the light pressure from a fork. Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Serve with whipped garlic potatoes, toasted French bread, or a crusty bread.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Apx. 8 servings

 

Pin Me to Pinterest!

Beef Bourguignon
Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

 

Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

I love a bowl of chili, especially on a cold fall or winter day.  I also like the chili to have lots of texture and flavour and to be well-filled, hearty, and not be too watery.  This recipe for Chicken and Pumpkin Chili has a lovely flavour profile owing to the selection of ingredients and a curated blend of spices to complement the core ingredients.

Chili
Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

Chili, with its Mexican influences, is essentially made of three basic ingredients – a protein, vegetables that typically include tomatoes and beans in addition to aromatics like onions, celery, and carrots and, of course, spices. What the cook does from there is basically the cook’s preferences and prerogative.

In this recipe for Chicken and Pumpkin Chili, I am using ground chicken (though you could use ground turkey) and sausage meat as the protein base. Tomatoes, both tomato paste and tomato sauce, and red kidney beans are used to give the chili its hearty base.  I am, however, adding a few different ingredients that one might not necessarily think of as typical chili ingredients.

The first is pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling which is something entirely different).  Not only does the pumpkin purée add a lovely subtle layer of flavour but it enhances the chili’s texture.  I also add a half cup of dry red wine and a tablespoon of cocoa, both of which will add depth and richness of flavour to the chili.  The cocoa will counteract fat from the meat and will help to balance out the typical flavours of the chili such as saltiness and sweetness from the other ingredients. It will also intensify the flavours and offer a more dimensional flavour profile in the chili as opposed to a one-dimensional taste.

Chili
Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

I don’t care for the chili to be too spicy so I tend to go light on the chili powder.  However, if you like the chili a bit more spicy, by all means, increase the amount of chili powder called for in the recipe. The other spices I add are small amounts of oregano, basil, cumin, cayenne, and pumpkin pie spice which is a nod to the addition of the pumpkin purée. The addition of oregano and basil will provide some herbal notes while the cumin will offer some smoky undertones and the cayenne a bit of heat to go along with the chili powder.

Make sure the spices get added to the mixture before the liquids because they will have a chance to coat the ingredients and will release their flavours better than adding them after the liquids have been added.  At that point, all the spices do is float around in the liquid and their flavours won’t be as intense.

Chili
Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

This Chicken and Pumpkin Chili can be served plain or with a dollop of sour cream, some shredded cheddar cheese, and sliced green onions.  It is also good served with tortilla chips.  The chili freezes very well and may be reheated in the microwave.

This Chicken and Pumpkin Chili is also great for taking along to potlucks or any casual get-togethers.

Chili
Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

 

[Printable Recipe Follows at End of Post]

Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

Ingredients:

1 tbsp oil
8 oz/225g ground chicken
4 oz/113g sausage meat, removed from casing

1 – 1½ tbsp oil
1 tbsp butter

½ cup onion, chopped
½ cup celery, chopped
½ cup carrot, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 oz/113g button mushrooms, quartered or sliced

1½ – 2 tsp chili powder (or to taste)
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp basil
¼ – ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
¼ tsp cumin
¼ tsp cayenne
½ tsp salt
Pepper, to taste
½ tbsp cocoa

1 cup chicken or turkey stock (or 3 tsp liquid chicken bouillon mixed in 1 cup boiling water)
½ cup dry red wine
1 – 19 oz/540ml can diced tomatoes with juice
2 tbsp tomato paste
½ cup tomato sauce
½ cup pumpkin purée (not pie filling)
2 tbsp brown sugar or maple syrup
1 bay leaf

1 – 14 oz/398ml can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Method:

Heat oil in skillet.  Crumble the ground chicken and sausage meat into the skillet.  Scramble fry meat until browned, about 5 minutes, breaking it up with a spoon or spatula. Drain and set meat aside.

Heat 1–1½ tbsp oil in heavy Dutch oven or medium-sized stock pot over medium-high heat.  Add 1 tbsp butter.  Reduce heat to medium and add the onion, celery, and carrot.  Cook the aromatics for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until onion starts to become transparent.  Add the minced garlic and mushrooms.  Stir mixture briskly for 1-2 minutes longer, ensuring the garlic does not scorch.  Stir in the chili powder, spices, salt, pepper, and cocoa. Add the browned meat to the pot.

Add the chicken or turkey stock, red wine, diced tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, tomato sauce, pumpkin purée, and brown sugar or maple syrup to the meat mixture. Stir.  Add bay leaf.  Cover and increase heat to bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until chili thickens, about 45-50 minutes.  Add the drained and rinsed kidney beans.  Simmer, partially covered, for 10-15 minutes more, until beans are heated. Remove and discard bay leaf and ladle chili into bowls.  Top with a dollop of sour cream, green onions, and/or shredded cheese, if desired.  Served with artisan bread or rolls or tortilla chips. This chili freezes well in airtight containers.

Yield:  Approximately 6 servings

Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

This hearty chili is made with ground chicken, sausage meat, pumpkin purée, and a select blend of spices to create a flavorful one-pot meal.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 6
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 8 oz/225g ground chicken
  • 4 oz/113g sausage meat removed from casing
  • 1 – 1½ tbsp oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • ½ cup onion chopped
  • ½ cup celery chopped
  • ½ cup carrot diced
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 4 oz/113g button mushrooms quartered or sliced
  • 1½ - 2 tsp chili powder or to taste
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp basil
  • ¼ - ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  • ¼ tsp cayenne
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Pepper to taste
  • ½ tbsp cocoa
  • 1 cup chicken or turkey stock or 3 tsp liquid chicken bouillon mixed in 1 cup boiling water
  • ½ cup dry red wine
  • 1 – 19 oz/540ml can diced tomatoes with juice
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • ½ cup tomato sauce
  • ½ cup pumpkin purée not pie filling
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 – 14 oz/398ml can red kidney beans drained and rinsed

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in skillet. Crumble the ground chicken and sausage meat into the skillet. Scramble fry meat until browned, about 5 minutes, breaking it up with a spoon or spatula. Drain and set meat aside.
  2. Heat 1 – 1½ tbsp oil in heavy Dutch oven or medium-sized stock pot over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp butter. Reduce heat to medium and add the onion, celery, and carrot. Cook the aromatics for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently, until onion starts to become transparent. Add the minced garlic and mushrooms. Stir mixture briskly for 1-2 minutes longer, ensuring the garlic does not scorch. Stir in the chili powder, spices, salt, pepper, and cocoa. Add the browned meat to the pot.
  3. Add the chicken or turkey stock, red wine, diced tomatoes with juice, tomato paste, tomato sauce, pumpkin purée, and brown sugar or maple syrup to the meat mixture. Stir. Add bay leaf. Cover and increase heat to bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until chili thickens, about 45-50 minutes. Add the drained and rinsed kidney beans. Simmer, partially covered, for 10-15 minutes more, until beans are heated. Remove and discard bay leaf and ladle chili into bowls. Top with a dollop of sour cream, green onions, and/or shredded cheese, if desired. Served with artisan bread or rolls or tortilla chips. This chili freezes well in airtight containers.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Approximately 6 servings

For my traditional Chili recipe, click here.

Pin Me To Pinterest!

Chili
Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

 

My Island Bistro Kitchen Food Blog Celebrates 7th Blogiversary

Cupcake
Blogiversary Cupcake

Seven years ago, today, I created My Island Bistro Kitchen Food Blog.  On this, my 7th Blogiversary, I am going to take this opportunity to give a shout-out to three people who were instrumental in inspiring my love of working with food and in cultivating my culinary skills.

First, my mother.  She never shooed me away when she was preparing food.  I’d see the yellow melamine bowl and Rubbermaid spatula appearing and I’d immediately find my little apron and pull a kitchen chair to the counter, not wanting to miss a minute of the fun!  Not once did my mother ever tell me to go off and play instead of standing at her elbow as she prepared food.  Rather, she’d let me stir whatever was being made and would explain the order in which the ingredients were to be added.  Once the mixture got to the point that it needed a little more muscle than I had, my mother would take over and I’d still stand by her side, watching and absorbing all the steps and learning. Sweet culinary memories.

Second, my grandmother.  She was, by no means, a fancy cook but what she prepared was mighty tasty.  She had a really large wooden pastry board that she’d heave on to the pantry table.  I loved when it was molasses or sugar cookie baking day because I always got to cut out the cookies that Gram would bake in her wood stove oven. And, when she would be making the Christmas Scotch cookies, I’d sit in her rocking chair with the big brown crockware bowl on my knee and cream her homemade butter. I still have her floral flour sifter (still works like a charm) and her small collection of cookie cutters (she would be beyond thrilled that I kept them and still prize them).  I remember well the day she coached me through making my first batch of bread at the age of 13.  She was so incredibly proud that day that I wondered how we’d ever fit this petite woman through the door!

Third, my high school home economics teacher.  Young and fresh out of university, we hit the jackpot when an enthusiastic home economics teacher arrived at our rural high school when I was in grade 9.  Super organized and always arriving at class with a solid lesson plan, she solidified my love of learning about, and preparing, foods.  I literally spent hours pouring over my class notes.  And, I still have some of the teacher’s recipes from foods we made in class!

These three people may never have realized the influence they had on my lifelong love of everything culinary but each certainly played a key role.  So, for that reason, I am acknowledging their role in how this food blogger and passionate home cook became a lifelong foodie.

Cupcakes
Blogiversary Cupcakes

 

Someone probably inspired your love of food, cooking, and/or baking.  Who was your biggest influencer or culinary mentor?

To check out my previous Blogiversary celebrations, click on the links below:

First Blogiversary
Second Blogiversary
Third Blogiversary
Fourth Blogiversary
Fifth Blogiversary
Sixth Blogiversary

Did you know you can connect with My Island Bistro Kitchen through the following social media channels? Click on the hotlinks below to join “the Bistro” followers!

Facebook
Twitter
Instagram
Pinterest

Blogiversary Cupcake
Blogiversary Cupcake

10 Tips for Cutting Your Food Bill and Reducing Food Waste

With continuously rising food prices, many people find it necessary to cut corners on their grocery bill and that can be a challenge.  There are several ways in which I keep my food bill in check and reduce food waste.  Here are my 10 top tips:

  1. Cut Back on Eating Out

It’s easy to fall into the “convenience food” trap.  The old “I just don’t have time to prepare homemade food” trap comes with a hefty price – both in terms of money spent on food and in nutritional value.

It’s very easy to pick up a muffin and a coffee on the way to work, for example.  However, for the price (or very little more) of those two items on one day alone, an entire batch of a dozen muffins could be made and frozen, ready for the weekday lunch bag(s).

Zucchini Granola Muffins
Zucchini Granola Muffins

For a visual of how much that daily coffeeshop tea or coffee is costing, multiple it by 365 days – if a coffee/tea costs, for example,  $3.00, a significant sum of $1095.00 a year will be spent on just one take-out coffee or tea a day (and I know some folks buy more than one a day).  If you were to make your own tea or coffee, how much would it cost? How much are you shelling out for the convenience of picking up the beverage at a coffeeshop? Add to that a bakeshop or coffeeshop muffin that generally runs about the same price as the coffee and, again, basic multiplication will reveal another $1095.00 for just the daily muffins for a year.  I can make a LOT of batches of muffins for $1095.00 a year! Together, those two simple items can run you about $2200.00 a year!

Homemade Muffin and Coffee
Homemade Muffin and Coffee

Spending $7.00+ for a bowl of soup or a salad at lunchtime adds up over a week, a month, and a year.  For $7.00, a big batch of healthy basic homemade soup, for example, can be made and frozen in portion-sized containers, making the lunchtime meal more healthy and economical.

Potato Leek Soup
Potato Leek Soup

I do not eat out a lot.  I’m not against it but it is expensive and dining out frequently makes it less of a special treat. For anyone on a restrictive diet, finding a restaurant that can accommodate the diet can be a real challenge. When I do eat out, it’s usually because I am traveling or, if at home, I am choosing to go to a nice restaurant as a special treat. If you normally eat out several times a week, cut it back to, perhaps, only once a week and see the difference it will make in how much you spend on food. I never “order in” food and very rarely eat from a deli. Stopping at a supermarket deli on the way home from work is a temptation to scoot around the store and “pick up just a few items” while you are there.  Suddenly, the supper stop just cost $60 instead of $15.

If you can afford these conveniences, great.  However, if you need to cut your food expenditures, this might be a good place to start making adjustments. Making your own food/beverages is both cost-effective and healthier.

  1. Make a Budget

Grocery Budgeting
Grocery Budgeting

Make a realistic budget for food, based on what you really need.  Set aside that money from your income and stick to the budget.  If you only allot so much for groceries, it will force you to shop for good bargains and to only buy what you need, not what you see and are enticed by, that if truth be told, you probably really don’t need. I sometimes see shoppers using calculators as they grocery shop.  This is a great idea! If you only have so much money to spend, you’ll immediately see where you are with your budget as you select items from the grocery shelves and deduct their cost from your budget.  If you start to see you’re over budget, take a look through the grocery cart to see if there are any non-essentials that could perhaps return to the grocery shelf.

Grocery Shopping
Grocery Shopping

Keep track of what you buy and are spending on groceries.  A bit tedious but, if you need to figure out where your food dollars are going, keep a record for a few months recording what you buy. Review it to see if there are non-essential items creeping into the grocery cart that could perhaps be eliminated from future grocery orders.  If you are, for example, buying big name brand products to be used as ingredients for a casserole, could the dish be made with less pricey items such as store-brand ingredients?  Do you really need the frozen entrée dinners or could you prepare healthy homemade meals? Do you need to pay for cheese already grated or could you buy a block of cheese on sale and grate it yourself? Do you really need to buy a bottle of salad dressing or could you make a simple healthy vinaigrette from ingredients already in your pantry? Once you get a clear picture of exactly what you are buying, you will likely identify items that can be eliminated or exchanged for more economically-priced substitutes.

  1. Engage in Meal Planning

Roast Turkey
Roast Turkey

I’ve written about the merits of meal planning before.  Make a list of the foods/meals your family likes to eat.  Plan for leftovers.  For example, if you are cooking a turkey dinner on the weekend, know ahead of time what you will use the leftover meat for so that you can extend its use.

Turkey Chowder
Homemade Turkey Chowder

Transforming the meat into other dishes will generate more servings than simply plating the leftover meat. For example, you might make a turkey chowder that will yield several servings. You might substitute the turkey for chicken in creamed chicken and get a significant number of servings. Perhaps you’ll make a chicken chow mein casserole that will give several dinner servings.

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole

Save the turkey carcass and make stock that can be used as the base in soups and other dishes.  Extend that turkey to get as much use out of it as you can.

Homemade Turkey Stock
Homemade Turkey Stock

The homemade turkey stock makes a wonderful base for turkey vegetable soup in which some of the leftover turkey meat can be used.

Turkey Soup
Turkey Vegetable Soup

If you are having a boiled ham dinner, save the broth and use some of the meat to make a tasty ham and lentil soup that will yield many servings.

Ham and Lentil Soup
Ham and Lentil Soup

Or, make a ham-based casserole that will generate several servings. All of these items can be frozen in whatever servings sizes you need for your family to have on hand for weeknight dinners.

Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole
Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole

By careful planning, you’ll be amazed at how many more meals you can generate from the leftovers of just one food item.

Try to make recipes that will give at least two nights’ meals.  For example, if you are making scalloped potatoes to go with leftover ham, double the recipe so you will have the side dish prepped for another meal.  Many dishes, like scalloped potatoes actually, in my opinion, improve their flavour over a day or two.

Scalloped Potatoes
Creamy Scalloped Potatoes

The same principle of extending food usage holds true with foods like chicken breasts, for example.  To serve individual chicken breasts, it’s expensive.  However, if they are bought at a good price, they are golden for meal extension.  One 7 – 8oz boneless chicken breast will yield two to three sandwiches much more economically than buying sliced processed chicken at the deli.

Turkey, Pear, Brie, and Cranberry Sandwich
Turkey, Pear, Brie, and Cranberry Sandwich

An 8 oz chicken breast will generally yield about 1 cup, or slightly more, of diced chicken which can be used in casseroles or creamed chicken that will yield far more servings than simply putting a single full chicken breast on a plate with vegetables for just one serving at one meal.

Creamed Chicken
Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-Vent

When I know I need to prepare some make-ahead meals that will require a lot of chicken or turkey (I use them interchangeably in recipes), I have my recipes planned and I watch for turkeys on sale. I don’t go into a store and, unexpectedly, see turkeys on sale and pick them up to put in the freezer unless I know I am going to use them relatively soon.  They are big to store and take up a lot of my valuable freezer space.

I always have a plan for recipes I can make if I can get a good deal on the main ingredient like meat, for example.  If I’m shopping and I know I want to make, say, Irish Stew soon (or when I can get the beef on sale), I will check the meat section to see if they have any best-before today/tomorrow sales. Sometimes, good cuts of meat will be reduced by 25% or even 50% if it has same day, or next day, best-before date.  There is nothing wrong with the meat and, if you can use it or make it into a recipe on the same day as purchase, it’s a great saving. I keep a list of ingredients of my most common make-ahead recipes on my phone so, if I can get a good deal on the meat, for example, I know what other ingredients I need to pick up at the same time to make the dish.

Irish Stew
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Irish Stew

If you plan your meals out, you’ll be less likely to head to the deli, take-out, or restaurant for meals. Careful meal planning is a great way to stretch food ingredients out into more servings and save money.

  1. Shop with a Grocery List and Only Buy What’s on the List

Grocery List
Grocery List

Make the grocery list before you leave home.  If you don’t have a list, the tendency will be to wander the supermarket aisles aimlessly, hoping the sight of items will trigger what you should pick up. When you get to the supermarket, DO NOT go up and down every aisle! I repeat, DO NOT go up and down every single aisle. Only visit the aisles that have items on your list.  Otherwise, the “browsing” will likely result in buying interesting looking items you may, or may not, use (and may not actually need) and that’s going to increase your grocery bill.  In fact, because I know the layout of the supermarkets well (most have the same basic layout), I actually make my grocery list in accordance with the store layout so I have a game plan when I hit the supermarket arena and I am not “backing and forthing” all over the store to pick up my groceries.  So, my grocery list starts with any needed fruits and vegetables since that’s the zone into which I enter the supermarket, then meats, and so on, as I traverse the store. The faster I can move through a zone without revisiting it (or lingering), the less likely I am to notice something that causes me to stop and explore it and potentially buy it.

Don’t stockpile food items, even if they’re on sale – you are tying up money into items that will expire and throwing them out is a waste of money. Plus, they are taking up real estate space in the pantry and/or freezer and are likely to eventually become food waste.  Most grocery items go on sale cyclically anyway so it’s not a “once in a lifetime must buy now deal”. I don’t keep a supply of canned goods on hand at all.  Rather, I choose a recipe, make my ingredient list, and go shop for the specific ingredients at the time.  This ensures my products are fresh and I have not tied up money in products I may, or may not, ever use. This method allows me to control my food budget better.

If you only need a few items, don’t take a shopping cart.  Instead, use a small hand-carried grocery basket or, better still, if you can carry all the items in your hands, you will be less likely to pick up additional products because your arms can only hold so much. I keep a grocery basket shown in the photo below) in my car.  I use this basket frequently because it will only hold so much so it helps to control my shopping.  It also doubles as my carry-out so it saves on plastic bags and is easier to unpack when I arrive home.

Grocery Shopping Basket
Grocery Shopping Basket

If all you need is milk, for example, pay a few cents extra and buy it at the convenience store or gas bar because it will save you money in the long run. How so? If you travel all the way to the back of a large supermarket where the milk is usually located, you will be more likely to come out with a $60+ grocery bill than the $3.00 litre of milk you were shopping for because you will be enticed by other items along the way for which you did not go to the supermarket. If you do go to the supermarket for just an item like milk (and some of us do because the supermarkets are typically the stores that carry certain types of milk for special diets), take the route through an aisle in which you have no interest in the products. For example if you don’t have pets, pet food won’t be of interest so zoom down that aisle (as opposed to, say, the chips and snack aisle). That way, you’re not tempted to pick up excess items not on your list.  There’s a reason why grocery store designers place basic food necessities, like milk, at the very far back end of the store – they know shoppers have to pass by many, many items to get there and those other items are strategically placed to catch the shopper’s attention.  Many shoppers will pick up items as they head to that single litre of milk they actually came into the store to buy. So, once again, the risk is that the stop for a $3.00 litre of milk may turn into a $60+ grocery bill (willpower, willpower, wherefore art thou when in a supermarket!)

  1. Shop Around and Check out Sales Flyers/Price Compare Websites or Apps

If you are trying to save on your grocery bill, you will probably have to shop at more than one supermarket to get the best deals.  In most cities, supermarket chains tend to set up business in very close proximity to their competitors.  For example, in Charlottetown, we have three large supermarket chains located within about a half kilometer (or less) of each other so it makes it easy to shop around.  Now, if you had to drive 10-20 kilometers between them, the savings on the item(s) would have to be very significant to justify the gas and travel time.  But, if the grocery stores are close, savings can be found for the shrewd shopper who takes the time to find them.

Check out the weekly sales flyers to see which supermarket has the items on sale that you need (operative word here always being “need”).  Or, check out price compare websites or apps to see which grocery store chain has the best price on products you need. Not all chains will price match but some will.  It never hurts to ask.

Sales Flyers
Grocery Sales Flyers

There is one grocery store in my hometown which I would class as less glitzy and more basic than the others.  I shop for what I can get there because it’s a smaller store which makes it easier to stick to my grocery list as there are fewer items drawing me to buy them.  Another store has great regular prices on certain items so, when I need those specific products, I head first to that store and buy what I can there. For example, there is a particular brand of yogurt I like.  The regular price for this item at one supermarket has, for a long time, consistently been (at time of writing) $2.97 for 500g. The exact same brand item of the same size retails at the competitors for $4.97. A 2.63 litre of a major brand orange juice sells for $3.97 (regular price) at one store while the competitors retail it for, on average, $7.49 – a $3.52 difference.  On just these two items alone, I can save $5.52 by carefully shopping around. A third supermarket has its own name brand products that I really like and which are priced cheaper than big name brand counterparts.  That’s the store I head to for those products because I don’t particularly like either of the competitors’ own store brand products.

I am not a huge user of coupons because I find they are most often for items I don’t need.  However, they are a good way to save money if they are for items you do actually need.  That said, as a word of caution, don’t use the coupons to buy items simply to try the products.  If the items are not ones you need, then putting any money at all on to the items is adding unnecessary strain to the food budget.

While I am not against big box warehouse shopping venues, they can require a lot of willpower on the customer’s part to pass by items that aren’t on the grocery list but certainly look interesting and appear to be a good price.  BUT….are they really a great price if you look at the per unit or per weight price and factor in all the considerations around them?  Items typically come in very large quantities at these stores (there’s a reason why they have those jumbo-sized grocery carts that can hardly be pushed or navigated through the store). So, unless you have a very large family and lots of refrigeration and pantry space, many of the items are just simply too large for many households to store and use up before the items expire. Therefore, the questions to ask are:  Do you, first of all, really need the items?  Will you be able to use them all up before they expire?  If you are a household of one or two people, would you really use a 10lb bag of quinoa or rice? If you end up throwing out a good portion of the food items, that constitutes food waste and a drain on the food budget and you really haven’t saved any money.

We don’t have big box grocery warehouse stores in PEI at the time of writing but a lot of Islanders frequent them off Island. I did have a membership (which also costs an annual fee) for a couple of years but discontinued it when I found I wasn’t using it enough to justify the membership fee.  Living in PEI, I had to factor into the cost of the grocery items, the Confederation Bridge toll (nearly $50. at time of writing), gas, and the time to travel to the big box warehouse stores. But, the biggest reason why I wasn’t shopping at them?  Everything was available only in way-too-large quantities and most of the products, well, I just simply did not need or I could get what I needed more economically when the standard local supermarkets put on good sales.

One previous frequent grocery warehouse shopper told me his family recently discontinued their membership as well because every time they were at one of these stores (2-3 times a month, on average), they were spending at least $500 per trip on items they really did not need (but looked enticing) and they ended up throwing out a good portion of them after their expiry date had passed because they could not use up such large quantities.  These shopping excursions were in addition to their regular grocery shopping at home, putting a huge unsustainable strain on their food budget.

To stay on a food budget, shop around and buy only what you need and can reasonably use up before the items expire.

  1. Follow Credible Well-Tested Recipes

While it’s fun to try new recipes, if you are on a strict food budget, you’ll want to ensure you choose recipes that, first of all, have ingredients you know your family will like and, second, come from a trusted source.  This is because you want a recipe that has good, clear directions and that will turn out for you.  The last thing you want is to have to walk the dreaded walk to the compost bin with a failed recipe and still have nothing prepped for dinner. That’s when you tend to order in or head out to a restaurant for the meal, really taxing the food budget.

Don’t choose complicated recipes with expensive ingredients, especially if you are a novice cook – it will be easy to become discouraged with home cooking if your efforts don’t meet with a satisfying tasty dish. Start basic and move toward more elaborate recipes as your cooking experience grows. There is no shortage of cookbooks and cooking magazines on the market and literally anyone can post any recipe on the internet.  However, there is no guarantee that any of the recipes from these sources have actually been tested for success.  Ask your friends and family for recommendations on the recipe sources they use with success and, of course, you can always check out recipes here on My Island Bistro Kitchen’s website since those recipes have been tested!

For those on a budget, look for recipes that call for economical ingredients and that you can get more than one meal from the recipe.  While pricey food items like lobster, scallops, and steak are wonderfully tasty, they can make a serious dent in the food budget.  To keep the budget in check, I recommend saving those types of items for a special treat or occasion and selecting other, more economically-priced, ingredients for everyday meals.

There are ways to turn everyday basic ingredients into very tasty, wholesome meals using seasonings, sauces, and so forth. A lot of the contents in my freezers are not “gourmet” by any stretch of the definition but they are mighty tasty meals and not difficult to prepare.  These include the basics like baked beans, chili, macaroni and cheese, creamed chicken, chicken and ham casseroles, soups, and so forth.

  1. Buy a Big Freezer

In my opinion, one of the best investments one can make is in a big upright freezer.  This allows for batch cooking make-ahead meal preparation to be done when food ingredients are in season or on sale.  I freeze lots of varieties of soups, main entrées, side dishes, and desserts.  This allows me to eat well, at home, and quite economically.  Plus, I know what I’m eating and the foods are not full of preservatives or ingredients I can’t pronounce.

Frozen Homemade Make-ahead Meals
Frozen Homemade Make-ahead Meals

Properly package items for freezing and label and date everything.  While the money has to initially be laid out for ingredients to batch cook and the prep work still has to be done, it does cut down on the grocery bill on an ongoing basis and lessens the task of meal prep on weeknights.  Plus, it discourages the old fallback of stopping at the supermarket deli for dinner on the way home from work because you will know you have quality homecooked meals already prepared.

  1. Batch Cook and Prepare Make-ahead Meals for the Freezer

I believe that, no matter how busy we are, we make time for whatever is a priority for us.  So, if healthy, affordable eating for you and your family is important to you, you’ll put some time into healthy, economical meal preparation.

Set aside a few days and prepare several make-ahead meals for the freezer – soups for lunches, muffins for breaks, entrées for main meals, and desserts for when the sweet tooth calls.

Beef Pasta Casserole
Beef Pasta Casserole Ready for the Freezer

Once I have my freezers (yes, freezers plural) filled with make-ahead meals, my ongoing grocery list just usually consists of dairy, fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, and the like. If you don’t know how to cook, or you need the motivation from others to get you going, gather together some friends to have a batch cooking session at the end of which everyone goes home with some make-ahead meals. Or, take a short cooking class.  Many larger supermarkets, for example, will frequently offer evening or Saturday cooking classes. You might also check out some community colleges or local cooking schools to see what short-term cooking classes they might offer.

If you want to tackle a new recipe you are not familiar with, engage an experienced cooking mentor to help walk you through the process.  Most experienced cooks will be more than willing to share their knowledge and experience in this field.

Batch cooking is my lifesaver – I don’t have to stop at the supermarket or takeout for dinner and I know what’s in my food that contains no preservatives or weird, hard-to-pronounce ingredients. Whether you are living alone, as a couple, or a family of several members, advance batch-cooking is a great meal preparation strategy. For singles or smaller households, it offers the benefit of having a variety of meals on hand from which to choose each day without having to individually prepare small-sized meals on a daily basis. For larger families, it provides healthy, home-cooked meals on busy weeknights when everyone is running in multiple directions to and from activities. If you have some others in the house, engage them in the meal preparation to lighten the load (it’s a great way to teach the younger generation how to prepare home-cooked meals, too).

  1. Adjust Meal Planning According to the Seasons

Create a list of favorite recipes to make when fresh local produce (perhaps from your own garden) is available and at good prices.  For example, I do a lot of soup making and freeze portion-sized containers of the soup for weekday lunches.  Some of my favorite soups are tomato, cauliflower, and broccoli.

Roasted Cream of Tomato Soup

We had an abundance of tomatoes in the garden this year and making soup with them is a great way to use up the tomatoes and cut the cost of the soup significantly.  I was able to find beautiful large heads of broccoli and cauliflower for .99 cents in the fall and, since they are the primary ingredients in two of my favorite soups, I was able to make double batches of cauliflower and broccoli soups for the freezer very economically – much more so than making cauliflower soup, for example, in the winter when a small head of imported cauliflower has run as high as $7.00 in recent years. The same holds true with fresh fruits.  I make my Blueberry Peach Crisps, Apple Crisps, and applesauce when the fruit is fresh and at a good price.  I then freeze these desserts for use throughout the year.

Summer Dessert
Perfect Peach Blueberry Crisp

 

  1. Shop Less Frequently

Just because it’s Saturday (or whatever day you typically do your main shopping) does not mean you automatically have to go grocery shopping if you really don’t need a grocery order.  Make it a habit not to be stopping at the supermarket every day, or every other day, throughout the week.  The more times you enter a grocery store, the harder it will be to stick to a food budget.  You might try only doing focused grocery shopping every two weeks and, in the interim, stop to pick up the necessities like milk, at a convenience store or gas bar where there will be less items calling your attention and wallet.

Conclusion

It is a challenge, for sure, to eat well when food prices continue to rise rapidly.  It does require some folks to become more creative in how to feed a family healthy meals on a budget.  I believe it can be done but it does take work, dedication, commitment, organization, planning, and shopping around for the best deals possible on food items.  For some folks, it may mean a lifestyle change by eating out less frequently and removing some non-essential items from the grocery cart.  For others, it may mean learning how to cook economical and nutritious meals from scratch at home.

I hope you have found some of my tips helpful for controlling the grocery bill and reducing food waste. What are your strategies to stretch your food dollar?

Pin Me To Pinterest!

Tips for Cutting Food Bill and Reducing Food Waste
Tips for Cutting Food Bill and Reducing Food Waste

Classic Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup

Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup
Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup

If you are a regular follower of my food blog, you will know that I do all I can to maximize the value of food products and reduce food waste.  In my view, one of the best buys to extend meals is a turkey.  Not only does it generate a wonderful roast turkey dinner but there is tremendous goodness left in the carcass and, often, there is more meat than can be used up as cold turkey and it can be transformed into other dishes.  Or, sometimes, one just gets tired of the turkey before it is all used up so a great way to maximize it is to turn it into a delectable Turkey Vegetable Soup.

Turkey Soup
Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup

The first thing I do after a roast turkey dinner is strip off all the remaining usable meat from the turkey carcass.  I will either immediately make homemade turkey stock with the carcass or freeze it in an airtight freezer bag and make the stock later.  You can find my recipe for making turkey stock by clicking here. If the plan is not to make the Turkey Soup right away, I suggest setting aside 3-4 cups of the turkey meat and freezing it in an airtight freezer bag to have ready to drop in to the soup when it is later made.

Homemade Turkey Stock
Homemade Turkey Stock

Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup is both delicious and nutritious and my version of this wholesome soup freezes well.  The recipe makes a big batch (about 18-20 servings) though it may be halved.  However, if freezer space is available for the soup, it is mighty handy to have on hand for later use.

Now I do, of course, recommend that homemade turkey stock be used as the foundation for this soup because it is wholesome and free of preservatives.  However, commercially-made stock/broth may be used in its place.

Turkey Soup
Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup

I recommend a careful reading of my recipe for this soup before beginning to make it as there are some steps involved and probably a shopping trip, too.  To begin, I typically use a dry soup mix comprised of beans, lentils, split peas, pearl barley, and white rice.  I buy this bulk at my local bulk food store and this mix does require a bit of pre-soaking, cooking, and standing time before it is incorporated into the soup pot.  Otherwise the contents of the mix will not cook in the amount of time it takes to cook the remaining ingredients of the soup. So, time will need to be allotted for that activity.  While using this mix adds fibre and bulk to the soup, the soup may be made without it and several photos in this posting show soup made without the dry soup mix. If making the soup minus the dry soup mix, simply increase slightly the quantity/amount of fresh and/or frozen vegetables called for in the recipe so that the soup is filled with goodness and is not too runny.

For this Turkey Vegetable Soup, I am not starting out with the traditional pure mirepoix because that requires that the aromatic holy trinity of carrots, celery, and onion  be chopped really fine.  In this soup, I want those ingredients to be left larger, in bite-size chunks.  However, I do sauté them, along with the parsnip and leek for 2-3 minutes to start the release of their flavours along with the garlic.

Turkey Soup
Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup

Because I use my own homemade stock which already has some seasonings added, I don’t add huge amounts of seasonings to the soup and this is one soup that I do not like overly spiced or seasoned.  One flavour booster I have found that works really well in this Turkey Vegetable Soup is dry onion soup mix so I add a couple of tablespoons along with small amounts of thyme, summer savory, turmeric, paprika, ground coriander, cloves, and nutmeg and, of course, the standard bay leaves. As always, I recommend, when making a recipe for the first time, to make it with the ingredients and amounts called for by the recipe creator.  If, after you have tried it as it has been developed, you find it needs more or less of a seasoning to suit your personal taste, the adjustments can be noted and made in the next batch.

Turkey Soup
Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup

I like rutabaga so add a fair bit of it to the soup. It adds both substance and some sweetness to the soup. Sometimes, I will make this soup with peeled cubed potatoes (seen in photo above) and, other times, I will make it a little more rustic, using the mini red potatoes with their skins on (as shown in photo below). Either works.

Turkey Soup
Turkey Vegetable Soup

Nearer the end of the cooking process, add 1 1/2 cups of frozen vegetables.  This can be either corn, peas, or mixed vegetables – any on their own or in any combination to make up 1 1/2 cups.  I like the soup well filled! One nice thing about this kind of soup is that if you don’t like, for example, peas, then simply replace them with another vegetable you prefer.

The cooked turkey may either be cubed (as shown in photo above) or coarsely shredded (as seen in photo below) for this soup.  Making turkey soup is a great way to use up light and/or dark meat left on the turkey.  It only needs about 5 minutes in the soup for it to heat.  Don’t re-cook the meat as it will become tough and it will lose its flavour.

Turkey Soup
Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup

Serve this soup piping hot with homemade bread, rolls, white biscuits, whole wheat biscuits, or favorite crackers.

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

The Bistro’s Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:

1 cup dry soup mix of beans, lentils, split peas, pearl barley, and white rice
3 cups cold water

3 – 4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup onion, coarsely chopped
2 cups carrots (about 3 large), cut into bite-sized chunks
1½ cups parsnip (about 2 large), cut into bite-sized pieces
1 cup celery (1 large celery rib), sliced
1 leek (white and green parts only), sliced
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced

12 cups turkey stock

2 tbsp dry onion soup mix
1 tsp dried summer savory
¾ tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp paprika
1/8 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 bay leaves

1¾ cups rutabaga, cut into bite-sized chunks

1 lb mini red potatoes (unpeeled), halved or quartered depending on their size or, alternatively, 2 cups peeled potatoes, cubed

1½ cups frozen vegetables (peas, corn, or mixed vegetables)

3 – 4 cups cooked turkey meat, cubed or coarsely shredded

Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

In large saucepan, soak the dry soup mix in 3 cups of cold water for 2 hours.  Bring to a boil, covered, over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to low and boil gently for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and let stand 1 hour.  Drain.

In large stockpot, over medium heat, melt the butter then add the olive oil.  Add the onions, carrots, parsnip, celery, and leek.  Sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring briskly.  Add the garlic and, stirring constantly, cook for 1 minute longer.

Add the turkey stock, cover, and bring just to the boiling point but do not boil.  Add the dry onion soup mix and spices along with the bay leaves.  Add the rutabaga and drained soup mix of beans, lentils, peas, etc. Cook gently, partially covered, over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the potatoes and cook, partially covered, for about 10-12 minutes before adding the frozen vegetables.  Cook for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked.  Add the cooked turkey and simmer for 5 minutes or so, just until the turkey is heated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remove bay leaves and ladle soup into bowls.  Soup freezes well.

Yield:  Approximately 18-20 servings (1¼ cup serving size)

You may also like this recipe for My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Homemade Turkey Chowder.

 

The Bistro’s Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup

Homemade turkey stock, leftover turkey, and loads of vegetables combine with light seasoning to make a delicious and nutritious turkey vegetable soup.
Course Soup
Cuisine American
Keyword Turkey Soup
Servings 18
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry soup mix of beans (lentils, split peas, pearl barley, and white rice)
  • 3 cups cold water
  • 3 – 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups carrots (about 3 large), cut into bite-sized chunks
  • cups parsnip (about 2 large), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup celery (1 large celery rib), sliced
  • 1 leek, white and green parts only, sliced
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 12 cups turkey stock
  • 2 tbsp dry onion soup mix
  • 1 tsp dried summer savory
  • ¾ tsp dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • ¼ tsp paprika
  • 1/8 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 bay leaves
  • cups rutabaga, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 lb mini red potatoes unpeeled, halved or quartered depending on their size or, alternatively, 2 cups peeled potatoes, cubed
  • cups frozen vegetables (peas, corn, or mixed vegetables)
  • 3 - 4 cups cooked turkey meat, cubed or coarsely shredded
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. In large saucepan, soak the dry soup mix in 3 cups of cold water for 2 hours. Bring to a boil, covered, over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and boil gently for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 1 hour. Drain.
  2. In large stockpot, over medium heat, melt the butter then add the olive oil. Add the onions, carrots, parsnip, celery, and leek. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring briskly. Add the garlic and, stirring constantly, cook for 1 minute longer.
  3. Add the turkey stock, cover, and bring just to the boiling point but do not boil. Add the dry onion soup mix and spices along with the bay leaves. Add the rutabaga and drained soup mix of beans, lentils, peas, etc. Cook gently, partially covered, over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add the potatoes and cook, partially covered, for about 10-12 minutes before adding the frozen vegetables. Cook for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked. Add the cooked turkey and simmer for 5 minutes or so, just until the turkey is heated.

  5. Remove bay leaves and ladle soup into bowls. Soup freezes well.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Approximately 18-20 servings (1¼ cup serving size)

 

Pin Me To Pinterest!

Turkey Soup
Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup

 

The Christmas Rose Tablesetting

Christmas tablesettings are an opportunity to use the good china, if you have it, and to create stunning centerpieces. While I don’t always use fresh flowers in my tablescapes, I never underestimate the power and beauty of fresh and softly fragrant flowers. Sometimes, as is the case in this tablesetting, only the fresh flowers will effectively achieve the sophisticated tablesetting I wanted. Just make sure that whatever flowers are chosen, they are not potently fragrant as that can be offputting for some guests.  Creating a beautiful holiday table is part of the equation but the other part is ensuring guests are comfortable for the meal.

To keep the tablesetting neutral and restful, I recommend chosing a color scheme and limiting it to two to three colors that complement each other well.  Otherwise, the table may start to look busy.  In this tablesetting, I used the blush-colored roses and a couple of shades of green with white as the table’s background. This strategy allows the focal point of the table (the centerpiece) to stand out.

The Christmas Rose Tablesetting
The Christmas Rose Tablesetting

This tablesetting has the overall effect of understated elegance with just a touch of whimsy and glitter.  The table is uncluttered and the centerpiece, the anchor of this Christmas tablesetting, is the single tall and elegant triangular flute-shaped vase with eight votives attached. Keeping the tabletop uncluttered creates a stylish and sophisticated holiday tablesetting. It’s classy and creates a serene and restful looking tabletop for dinner guests.

Candles create an inviting atmosphere and give warmth to a tablesetting. Votives are great because they provide an elegant soft low light to the tablesetting and they are also relatively safe to use because they are low and won’t likely tip if the table is jerked accidentally by the knee of a guest.  I find tall tapers to be a bit unnerving because they more easily can tip over because of their height. I rarely use them in tablesettings for this reason.

The principal flowers I have selected for the focal point centerpiece have meanings to Christmas and are steeped in legend. Whether or not any of these legends is true or not, I have no way of knowing but they do make for good conversation pieces.

The Christmas Rose Centerpiece
The Christmas Rose Centerpiece

The Legend of the Christmas Rose

Legend has it that a young shepherdess named Madelon, was tending her flock on the hillside as she watched the wise men and shepherds passing by with their gifts to present to the newborn King.  Madelon, in tears and despairing that she had no gift to offer to the Baby Jesus, was seen by an angel who is believed to have made the snow at Madelon’s feet disappear, revealing a rose with pink-tipped petals.  According to the legend, these petals were formed by the angel from the tears shed by Madelon.  This flower then offered Madelon the opportunity to present a gift at the manger. The flower became known as the Christmas Rose.

The Christmas Rose
The Christmas Rose

So, I have used a dozen soft blush-colored roses with pink-tipped petals as the main flowers in this centerpiece.

The Christmas Rose
The Christmas Rose

Legend of Star of Bethlehem Flower

This is an all-white star-shaped flower. Legend suggests God thought that the beautiful Star of Bethlehem he created to guide the wise men to the Baby Jesus was too beautiful, after it served its purpose, not to do something more with. So, the star was burst into pieces and, when it scattered to the ground, it turned into white flowers that became known as the Star of Bethlehem flower.

I have included a single Star of Bethlehem stem in the center of this arrangement.

Star of Bethlehem Flower
Star of Bethlehem Flower

Other Components of the Floral Arrangement

To complement the pale blush color of the centerpiece, I have added the green bell-shaped Bells of Ireland and small green chrysanthemums. The Bells of Ireland are said to symbolize good luck and the chrysanthemums represent happiness, love, longevity, and joy.

The greenery in the arrangement is comprised of fir and pine.

Bells of Ireland and Green Chrysanthemums
Bells of Ireland and Green Chrysanthemums

The tiny white frothy Baby’s Breath (seen to the right in the photo below) has much symbolism. One of its symbols is said to represent the power of the Holy Spirit in the Christian faith. Baby’s Breath is a great filler flower for arrangements and I think it looks like little snowdrops.

The Christmas Rose with Baby's Breath and Green Chrysanthemum
The Christmas Rose with Baby’s Breath, Star of Bethlehem, and Green Chrysanthemum

Dinnerware

I am using my Royal Albert “Lavender Rose” china in this setting and have framed each place setting with a gold charger plate. I am a big fan of using charger plates for a couple of reasons.  First, I think it gives an air of elegance and formality to the setting and, second, it keeps each placesetting clean.  If food should happen to drop off of a plate, it is caught by the charger plate and means fewer stains on the table linen. Different colored chargers can also change the look of a tablesetting, particularly if the same dinnerware is frequently used for events with the same guests attending.

Royal Albert "Lavender Rose" China
Royal Albert “Lavender Rose” China

The placesettings are set with the components of the dinnerware that will be used in the order of the menu, starting with a cream soup, followed by the salad course and, of course, the main meal. This also gives guests a clue as to how many courses to expect at dinner.

Royal Albert "Lavender Rose" China
Royal Albert “Lavender Rose” China

To tie in the green color from the floral arrangement, and to add a bit of whimsy and interest to the setting, I am using these glittery clip-on birds.  They add a festive air and interest to the table.

Clip-on Bird
Clip-on Bird

Table Linens and Napkin Fold

When I am using patterned dinnerware, as I am in this setting, I like to use a plain tablecloth —  usually white — because it gives me a blank canvas from which to work and display elements of the setting. The tablecloth is a vintage Irish linen cloth.

The napkin fold I am using is a fold that is known by a couple of names: 1) the Bird of Paradise; and 2) the Sailboat fold. I will often set this fold on a plate but, for this setting, I am placing it inside the stemmed wine glasses because it replicates the triangular shape of the vase and its floral arrangement. When the floral arrangement is tall, I like to use some height at each placesetting so there is not such a visual drop in depth from the centerpiece to each placesetting.  Placing this fold in the stemware glass graduates the height of elements of the tablesetting.

The Bird of Paradise/Sailboat Napkin Fold
The Bird of Paradise/Sailboat Napkin Fold

Glassware

I have chosen to use matching glassware in this setting as it gives a more formal look. Using glassware that has lots of cuts will add sparkle to any table.

The Bird of Paradise/Sailboat Napkin Fold
The Bird of Paradise/Sailboat Napkin Fold

A tasty meal is made all the more wonderful when dinner guests are presented with a beautifully set table. No matter what is on the menu, a thoughtfully set table adds a little extra holiday flair to a dinner party.

The Christmas Rose Holiday Tablesetting
The Christmas Rose Holiday Tablesetting

To view other holiday tablesettings from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

Blush Pink Holiday Tablesetting
Just Hear Those Sleigh Bells Jinglin’ Tablesetting
Glitz ‘n Glamour New Year’s Eve Tablesetting
The Warmth of the Christmas Light Tablesetting
Christmas Eve Tablesetting and Dinner
A Tartan Holiday Tablesetting
Pretty Poinsettia Tablesetting
Poinsettia Trio Tablesetting
The Holiday Table
The Pink and Green Holiday Table
Christmas at My Island Bistro Kitchen
Purple Tablesetting for the Holidays
Evergreens and Reindeer Christmas Tablesetting
Cupcake Tablescape
Twas The Night Before Christmas

Pin Me To Pinterest!

The Christmas Rose Tablesetting
The Christmas Rose Tablesetting

Classic Sticky Date Pudding with Toffee Sauce

Sticky Toffee Pudding
Sticky Date Pudding with Toffee Sauce

Sticky Date Pudding (aka Sticky Toffee Pudding) has a British origin and is often served as the Christmas pudding.  This pudding is basically a dense, but tender, sponge cake made with cooked dates.  It’s really nothing more elaborate or complicated than that.

My version of this classic pudding starts with soaking the chopped dates in rum allowing them to absorb the flavour, then slowly simmering the dates in water to soften.  The dates, the primary ingredient in the pudding, add sweetness and texture to the pudding without turning it into a heavy pudding.  This pudding is subtly spiced with a blend of ginger, cinnamon, and cloves.

Sticky Toffee Pudding
Sticky Date Pudding with Toffee Sauce

I like to make this pudding in small one-half cup size ramekins for a couple of reasons.  First, I like the look of a small pudding on each plate and, second, this pudding freezes well and the ramekin-sized puddings are perfect for freezing individual servings.

Sticky Date Pudding
Sticky Date Pudding

Sticky Date Pudding is most commonly served warm with a decadently rich toffee sauce made with butter, dark brown sugar, and whipping cream.  I add a dash of rum to the sauce to deepen the flavour.  Add a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla or maple ice cream to really dress the pudding to the nines!

Sticky Toffee Pudding
Sticky Date Pudding

 

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Sticky Date Pudding with Toffee Sauce

Ingredients for Pudding:

7 oz (about 1 1/3 cups) pitted dates, coarsely chopped
¼ cup dark rum
1 cup water
1 1/8 tsp baking soda

¼ cup butter, softened at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp grated orange rind
1½ tbsp pure maple syrup
1½ tsp vanilla

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp cloves
1/8 tsp salt

Ingredients for Toffee Sauce:

¾ cup butter (no substitutes)
1 1/3 cups dark brown sugar
¾ cup whipping cream (35% M.F.)
2 tbsp rum
2 tsp vanilla

Method for Pudding:

In saucepan, pour rum over dates.  Let stand 20 minutes, stirring a couple of times.  Add the cup of water and bring the dates, rum, and water to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to simmer and boil, uncovered, gently for approximately 5 minutes, stirring once or twice.  Remove from heat and add the baking soda. Stir well.  Let mixture stand, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to loosely break up the dates.

Position oven rack in bottom third of oven and preheat oven to 350°F.

While date mixture is cooling, cream the butter and sugars together in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in the orange rind, maple syrup and vanilla.

Sift the dry ingredients together and incorporate into the creamed mixture just until they are completely blended.  Stir in the date mixture.

Grease ten (10) ½-cup ramekins and place on rimmed baking sheet.  Distribute the batter evenly between the ramekins, filling each no more than about 2/3 full. Smooth tops with knife. Bake for 25 minutes, or until pudding springs back to a light touch and a cake tester inserted into center of pudding comes out clean. Run tip of pare knife around each pudding to loosen any parts that may have stuck to ramekin.  Turn puddings out on to individual serving plates. Serve warm with toffee sauce and, if desired, a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla or maple ice cream.

Method for Toffee Sauce:

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat.  Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the cream and reduce heat to simmer.  Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thick, about 6-8 minutes or so.  Remove from heat and stir in the rum and vanilla. Serve warm over sticky date pudding.  (Sauce will thicken as it starts to cool slightly).

Yield:  10 servings

NOTE 1:  Pudding may also be baked in a greased (or parchment-lined) 9” baking pan for approximately 30-35 minutes or until cake tester inserted into center of pudding comes out clean and pudding springs back to a light touch. Cut into squares and serve warm with the warm toffee sauce.

NOTE 2:  This pudding freezes well so can be made ahead of when needed. Simply thaw at room temperature and reheat pudding for a few seconds in microwave.

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Sticky Date Pudding with Toffee Sauce

A deliciously moist and delicately spiced rich date pudding best served with a rich and luscious toffee sauce.
Course Dessert
Servings 10
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 7 oz about 1 1/3 cups pitted dates, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ cup dark rum
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • ¼ cup butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 tsp grated orange rind
  • tbsp pure maple syrup
  • tsp vanilla
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Ingredients for Toffee Sauce:

  • ¾ cup butter (no substitutes)
  • 1 1/3 cups dark brown sugar
  • ¾ cup whipping cream, 35% M.F.
  • 2 tbsp rum
  • 2 tsp vanilla

Instructions

Method for Pudding:

  1. In saucepan, pour rum over dates. Let stand 20 minutes, stirring a couple of times. Add the cup of water and bring the dates, rum, and water to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and boil, uncovered, gently for approximately 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Remove from heat and add the baking soda. Stir well. Let mixture stand, uncovered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to loosely break up the dates.
  2. Position oven rack in bottom third of oven and preheat oven to 350°F.
  3. While date mixture is cooling, cream the butter and sugars together in bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the orange rind, maple syrup and vanilla.
  4. Sift the dry ingredients together and incorporate into the creamed mixture just until they are completely blended. Stir in the date mixture.
  5. Grease ten (10) ½-cup ramekins and place on rimmed baking sheet. Distribute the batter evenly between the ramekins, filling each no more than about 2/3 full. Smooth tops with knife. Bake for 25 minutes, or until pudding springs back to a light touch and a cake tester inserted into center of pudding comes out clean. Run tip of pare knife around each pudding to loosen any parts that may have stuck to ramekin. Turn puddings out on to individual serving plates. Serve warm with toffee sauce and, if desired, a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla or maple ice cream.

Method for Toffee Sauce:

  1. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Add the cream and reduce heat to simmer. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thick, about 6-8 minutes or so. Remove from heat and stir in the rum and vanilla. Serve warm over sticky date pudding. (Sauce will thicken as it starts to cool slightly).

Recipe Notes

Yield: 10 servings NOTE 1: Pudding may also be baked in a greased (or parchment-lined) 9” baking pan for approximately 30-35 minutes or until cake tester inserted into center of pudding comes out clean and pudding springs back to a light touch. Cut into squares and serve warm with the warm toffee sauce. NOTE 2: This pudding freezes well so can be made ahead of when needed. Simply thaw at room temperature and reheat pudding for a few seconds in microwave.

Pin Me To Pinterest!

Sticky Date Pudding
Sticky Date Pudding

The Rumrunners – Rum and Raisin Cookies

Rum and Raisin Cookies
The Rumrunners – Rum and Raisin Cookies

The folklore of rum running during prohibition in Prince Edward Island (PEI) is the stuff of which legends and ballads are made.  In PEI, so the stories go, locals would set sail in fishing boats, under the cover of darkness, and head out to sea to meet ships from St. Pierre and Miquelon carrying rum.  The locals, known as rumrunners, would buy the rum and head back to Island shores with the smuggled contraband liquor.

Now, these Rum and Raisin Cookies would probably not have been made during prohibition but the legend of the rumrunners has inspired me to name them the Rumrunners.

Rum and Raisin Cookies
The Rumrunners – Rum and Raisin Cookies

These cookies are made from a rolled cookie dough to which rum-soaked raisins have been added.  Dark rum should be used for the soaking of the raisins as it will generate the most depth of flavour (as opposed to a light or amber rum).  Simply soak the raisins in the rum for a few minutes, then simmer them on the stove.  Let the raisins stand for about an hour after they have simmered.  This should see most of the rum soaked into the now plump raisins.  However, the raisins should be drained in a wire-mesh sieve to remove any excess rum.  Do not add any of the rum liquid to the dough as it is not intended to have any liquid, apart from the egg yolk, in it. The subtle rum flavour comes from the rum-soaked raisins.

The dough will be too soft to roll out after it has just been mixed.  Chill it in the refrigerator, for 15-20 minutes or just until it is firm enough to roll out.

Rum and Raisin Cookies
The Rumrunners – Rum and Raisin Cookies

Choose a relatively simple cookie cutter, about 1 3/4″ – 2″ in diameter, for these cookies.  These delicately crisp and rich buttery cookies freeze well and are a great addition to any sweet tray.

The Rum Runners - Rum and Raisin Cookies
The Rumrunners – Rum and Raisin Cookies

The Rumrunners’ Rum and Raisin Cookies also make a great gift.

Rum and Raisin Cookies
The Rumrunners – Rum and Raisin Cookies

I think the rumrunners would have approved of these cookies!

Rum and Raisin Cookies
The Rumrunners – Rum and Raisin Cookies

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

The Rumrunners’ Rum and Raisin Cookies

Ingredients:

½ cup sultana raisins
¼ cup dark rum

2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp cornstarch
¼ tsp baking power
¼ tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp salt

½ cup butter
¾ cup icing sugar (aka powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar)
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 tsp finely grated orange rind
1 tsp vanilla

Method:

Combine raisins and rum in small saucepan. Let stand for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to low and boil gently for approximately 1 -2 minutes, stirring a couple of times.  Do not boil raisins dry. Remove from heat, cover, and let raisins stand for about 1 hour.  Drain raisins in small wire mesh sieve and discard any remaining rum (there should be very little).

In small bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, cardamom, and salt.  Set aside.

In bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter for about 1 minute.  Gradually, add the icing sugar and beat just until the butter and sugar are combined.  Blend in the egg yolk, orange rind, and vanilla, mixing just until the ingredients are incorporated.  Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until blended.  Stir in the drained raisins. Do not add any remaining rum from raisins to the cookie dough.

Gently gather the dough together just enough to form it into two balls.  With hands, flatten each ball into disk shape.  Wrap in plastic wrap and chill dough in refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes, or until dough is firm enough to roll.  Line large baking sheet(s) with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 300°F.  Working with each disk separately, roll the dough ¼“ thick on a lightly floured surface.  Using a 1¾” – 2” cookie cutter, cut cookies into desired shapes, cutting the cookies as close together as possible to minimize the dough scraps that will need to be re-worked and re-rolled.  Note that re-working and re-rolling the dough scraps more than 2-3 times may result in cookies that have a tough texture.  Place cookies, about 1” apart on cookie sheet(s). Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until cookies are set, turning pan half-way through the baking process.  Cool cookies on baking sheet(s) for 3-4 minutes then, using a small lifter, transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely.

Store cookies in airtight container at room temperature for up to a week or freeze between layers of waxed paper in airtight container for longer storage.

Yield:  Approximately 4 – 4½ dozen

The Rumrunners’ Rum and Raisin Cookies

Rum-soaked raisins add “spirit” to these delicately crisp and buttery cookies that have a hint of orange flavor and cardamom spice.
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • ½ cup sultana raisins
  • ¼ cup dark rum
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tsp cornstarch
  • ¼ tsp baking power
  • ¼ tsp cardamom
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • ½ cup butter
  • ¾ cup icing sugar (aka powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar)
  • 1 large egg yolk, room temperature
  • 1 tsp finely grated orange rind
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Instructions

  1. Combine raisins and rum in small saucepan. Let stand for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and boil gently for approximately 1 -2 minutes, stirring a couple of times. Do not boil raisins dry. Remove from heat, cover, and let raisins stand for about 1 hour. Drain raisins in small wire mesh sieve and discard any remaining rum (there should be very little).
  2. In small bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, cardamom, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter for about 1 minute. Gradually, add the icing sugar and beat just until the butter and sugar are combined. Blend in the egg yolk, orange rind, and vanilla, mixing just until the ingredients are incorporated. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until blended. Stir in the drained raisins. Do not add any remaining rum from raisins to the cookie dough.
  4. Gently gather the dough together just enough to form it into two balls. With hands, flatten each ball into disk shape. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill dough in refrigerator for about 15-20 minutes, or until dough is firm enough to roll. Line large baking sheet(s) with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 300°F. Working with each disk separately, roll the dough ¼“ thick on a lightly floured surface. Using a 1¾” - 2” cookie cutter, cut cookies into desired shapes, cutting the cookies as close together as possible to minimize the dough scraps that will need to be re-worked and re-rolled. Note that re-working and re-rolling the dough scraps more than 2-3 times may result in cookies that have a tough texture. Place cookies, about 1” apart on cookie sheet(s). Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until cookies are set, turning pan half-way through the baking process. Cool cookies on baking sheet(s) for 3-4 minutes then, using a small lifter, transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Store cookies in airtight container at room temperature for up to a week or freeze between layers of waxed paper in airtight container for longer storage.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Approximately 4 – 4½ dozen

 

Pin Me To Pinterest!

Rum and Raisin Cookies
The Rumrunners’ Rum and Raisin Cookies

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade Pure Vanilla Extract
Homemade Pure Vanilla Extract

As many bakers will know, vanilla has been creeping up in price and, since it’s a key flavoring in many baked goods, it’s hard to do without it.  I recently priced a 120ml bottle of pure vanilla (storebrand) here in Charlottetown and it was $17.49 at time of writing. Yikes! 120ml is not quite one-half cup and there aren’t a lot of teaspoons in a half cup.  I  make my own vanilla which is actually quite easy and only takes two ingredients — vanilla beans and vodka. The vanilla extract is made using whole vanilla beans that steep for several weeks, or months, in at least 35% alcohol or more.

Vanilla Beans
Vanilla Beans

What homemade vanilla does take is time.  It takes at least one to two months for the flavour to steep from the vanilla beans placed in the vodka so you do need to plan ahead for your vanilla needs.  Vanilla beans are not cheap either but, for the amount of vanilla that can be made I find, for me at least, it is the more economical way to go.

There are different varieties and grades of vanilla beans. I use the Madagascar Bourbon variety. Grade B beans, with their low moisture content, are generally considered the more suitable for extraction purposes.   What beans you use, however, will largely depend on what is available in your area.  Vanilla beans are usually found in the baking aisles of most large supermarkets or you can often find them at bulk and health food stores.

I use three split standard-sized vanilla beans per cup of vodka, four if the beans are somewhat smaller.  More beans can be used to speed up the steeping process but, if you can wait, it’s more economical to go with fewer beans and steep them longer.  Vodka is the preferred medium to use for the vanilla because it is considered to be a neutral agent with no defined strong flavour on its own.  Some do use bourbon, rum, or brandy for the vanilla but, in my view, that is altering the true vanilla flavour and introducing another flavour altogether.

There is no need to buy a top-brand pricey vodka for the making of vanilla.  I use a moderately priced vodka with 40% alc./vol.

To prepare the vanilla beans, use the flat back side of a pare knife and smooth out the vanilla beans, lengthwise.

Vanilla Beans
Vanilla Beans

Then, with the tip of a sharp knife, slice the vanilla beans open, lengthwise, to reveal the vanilla seeds.

Vanilla Beans
Vanilla Beans

At this point, you can scrape the vanilla seeds out and transfer them to the decanting bottle along with the vanilla pods or you can just leave the seeds in the pods.

Vanilla Bean Seeds
Vanilla Bean Seeds

The seeds will come out of the pods anyway as the bottle is shaken and the seeds and pods steep. Place the vanilla bean pods and seeds in a sterilized bottle or jar.  Add the vodka, ensuring the vanilla bean pods are submerged. You may cut the vanilla beans if they are taller than the amount of vodka in the bottle.

Making Homemade Vanilla
Making Homemade Vanilla

Cover tightly and shake the bottle well.  Store in cool dark place for at least one month (and preferably two months or even longer).  Shake the bottle once or twice a week during the steeping/ extraction process.

Apart from making vanilla for your own use, homemade vanilla makes a wonderful gift for the foodie on your gift list so the vanilla beans can be divided between the smaller sterilized gift-size bottles for the entire extraction/steeping process or the vanilla can be steeped in one large bottle and then later poured into smaller sterilized bottles, usually either 4oz or 8oz size.  I usually make the vanilla in a large bottle because it does need to be shaken once or twice a week as it steeps and I find it easier to deal with one bottle than several.

Homemade Vanilla

Some don’t care for the specks of vanilla seeds left in the bottle so, if  a clear, speck-free, vanilla is desired, filter it through a small k-cup coffee filter like the one shown in the funnel below.

Filtering Vanilla Extract
Filtering Vanilla Extract

I do recommend keeping the vanilla bean pods in the bottle(s) even after the 1-2 month steeping period has ended because those beans continue to impart flavour and deeper color to the vanilla.  I personally like to leave the seeds in the vanilla for the same reason. I also think the seeds make it more interesting and authentic looking  If, in future, you have any vanilla bean pods left after you have used the seeds for other purposes, add those pods to the vanilla you have on hand.  Additional vodka can be added to the bottle, as well, as the vanilla is used up. Continue to store the vanilla in a dark place at room temperature.

Homemade Vanilla
Homemade Vanilla

Making homemade vanilla extract is simple and easy to do. It also has the added benefit of allowing you to choose the quality of vanilla you want to make based on the kind and grade of vanilla beans you use. There are a lot of vanillas, and simulated vanillas, on the market but making your own allows you to control the quality and, depending on how much you use, it may be the more economical option. Plus, you will have the thrill of making your own vanilla and impressing those you choose to gift it to as well.

Homemade Vanilla
Homemade Vanilla

 

Pin Me To Pinterest!

Vanilla
Homemade Vanilla Extract
Vanilla
Homemade Vanilla Extract

Classic Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Squares
Nanaimo Bars

These delightful no-bake bars are almost like candy!  Bar none, these Nanaimo Bars are my all-time favorite bars.  They consist of three layers:  1) a chocolate base consisting of graham wafer crumbs, nuts, cocoa, and coconut; 2) a soft yellow-colored custard-flavored filling made primarily with icing sugar and custard powder; and 3) a rich chocolate ganache topping.

Nanaimo Squares
Nanaimo Bars

There is a lot of mystery around the history and exact origins of  the decadent Nanaimo Bars.  The history has been traced back to the early 1950s when a square, simply called “Chocolate Square” (with the ingredients we know today as “Nanaimo Bars”), appeared in the 1952 Women’s Auxiliary of the Nanaimo Hospital Cookbook in British Columbia. Shortly after, circa 1953, the same recipe appeared, under the name of “Nanaimo Bars” in the Edith Adams Cookbook (14th edition). Both recipes have the same common ingredients.  As to who the precise creator of the recipe was, however, has not been definitively determined and the square, or bar, has gone by several names over the years, including New York Slice, Smog Squares, and London Fog Bars.  Whomever it was, they created a sure winner that has endured throughout the years and the treat is commonly known as Nanaimo Bars!

Nanaimo Squares
Nanaimo Bars

These bars are not difficult to make but they do take a little time since there are three parts to the bars — a base, filling, and topping. I recommend making the base in the top of a double boiler or, alternatively, in a heat-proof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.  The base can be made in a heavy-bottomed saucepan but it can set up rather quickly using this method and there is always the danger of scorching the ingredients.

For the filling, I use Bird’s brand vanilla custard powder,usually found in the baking aisle of Canadian supermarkets.  However, any vanilla custard powder may be used in this recipe.  Many recipes for Nanaimo Bars only use a couple of tablespoons of custard powder.  However, I find that makes the filling too soft and squishy for handling.  I use 3 1/2 tablespoons of custard powder in my recipe and find it gives a lovely velvety textured filling that will hold its own when handled.

Nanaimo Squares
Nanaimo Bars

While they are called “bars”, I cut mine into squares and, from a 9″x9″ pan, I get 25 delectable squares.  These need to be kept refrigerated, or frozen for longer storage.

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Nanaimo Bars

Ingredients:
 
Base:

½ cup butter
¼ cup granulated sugar
6 tbsp cocoa
1 extra-large egg, room temperature, lightly beaten
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
½ cup chopped toasted pecans

Filling:

½ cup butter, softened at room temperature
2½ tbsp whipping cream (35%)
3½ tbsp vanilla custard powder
1 tsp pure vanilla
2 cups sifted icing sugar (aka powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar)

Topping:

4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
2 tbsp butter, softened at room temperature

Method:

Line 9” square pan with parchment paper leaving enough overhang to easily lift finished square from pan for cutting.

Base:  In bottom of double boiler, bring about 2” of water to the simmer point (around 200°F). Maintain the water at this simmer point over medium-low heat. In the top of the double boiler, melt the butter and then add the sugar and cocoa powder.  Stir to combine ingredients.  Whisk in the egg.  Stir until mixture thickens.  Remove saucepan from heat and stir in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and nuts.  Press mixture into prepared pan.  Cool in refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.

Filling:  In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream the butter and whipping cream together.  Add the vanilla.  Blend in the custard powder followed by the icing sugar, beating until mixture is smooth.  If mixture appears too stiff, add 1-2 teaspoons whipping cream and beat mixture well to combine (note, however, that mixture should not be soupy).  Spread evenly over cooled base.  Refrigerate 1-2 hours.

Topping:  In small saucepan, over low heat, melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring to mix.  Spread evenly over chilled filling.  Refrigerate to set chocolate, approximately 30 minutes.  Use a sharp, flat blade knife to cut into squares.

Refrigerate bars in single layer in airtight container for up to 5 days or, for longer storage, freeze in airtight container.

Nanaimo Squares
Nanaimo Bars

 

Nanaimo Bars

Decadent no-bake Nanaimo Bars consist of three layers of a velvety custard filling sandwiched in between a chocolate-coconut-nut base and rich chocolate ganache topping
Course Dessert
Keyword Nanaimo Bars
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

Base:

  • ½ cup butter
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 6 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 extra-large egg room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ cup chopped toasted pecans

Filling:

  • ½ cup butter softened at room temperature
  • tbsp whipping cream 35%
  • tbsp vanilla custard powder
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 2 cups sifted icing sugar aka powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar

Topping:

  • 4 oz semi-sweet chocolate
  • 2 tbsp butter softened at room temperature

Instructions

  1. Line 9” square pan with parchment paper leaving enough overhang to easily lift finished square from pan for cutting.

Base: In bottom of double boiler, bring about 2” of water to the simmer point (around 200°F). Maintain the water at this simmer point over medium-low heat. In the top of the double boiler, melt the butter and then add the sugar and cocoa powder. Stir to combine ingredients. Whisk in the egg. Stir until mixture thickens. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in the graham cracker crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press mixture into prepared pan. Cool in refrigerator for 10-15 minutes.

    Filling: In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream the butter and whipping cream together. Add the vanilla. Blend in the custard powder followed by the icing sugar, beating until mixture is smooth. If mixture appears too stiff, add 1-2 teaspoons whipping cream and beat mixture well to combine (note, however, that mixture should not be soupy). Spread evenly over cooled base. Refrigerate 1-2 hours.

      Topping: In small saucepan, over low heat, melt the chocolate and butter together, stirring to mix. Spread evenly over chilled filling. Refrigerate to set chocolate, approximately 30 minutes. Use a sharp, flat blade knife to cut into squares.

      1. Refrigerate bars in single layer in airtight container for up to 5 days or, for longer storage, freeze in airtight container.

      Recipe Notes

      Yield:  1 - 9"x9" pan, approximately 25 squares

      Pin Me To Pinterest!

      Nanaimo Bars
      Classic Nanaimo Bars

      How to Make Homemade Applesauce

      Applesauce
      Homemade Applesauce

      A true old-fashioned comfort food, homemade applesauce is so simple to make and, best of all, it does not take a lot of ingredients or any unusual ones.  I like to make a big batch of applesauce in the fall when the local apples are fresh in-season and when I can buy, bulk, the different varieties of apples.

      Apples
      Mixture of Apples for Applesauce

      While I have often made good applesauce using only one variety of apple, I have discovered that blending several varieties, each with its own properties, adds wonderful flavour to the sauce.  I like to use at least three varieties, and sometimes four, in my applesauce so I choose varieties known for their sweet, tart, and tangy properties because their flavours play well off of each other.  In the sauce in the photographs in this posting, I have used four varieties – Cortland from the sweet category, Jonagold and MacIntosh from the tart group and, to add a tangy dimension, I added some Honeycrisp.

      Applesauce
      Homemade Applesauce

      You don’t want to use too much liquid when cooking the apples – basically, just enough to keep the apples from scorching as they cook.  The apples, themselves, will release their juices as they cook.  Using too much liquid will make for a very runny, soupy sauce that will lack good consistency. While the applesauce can be made with a little water, using apple juice really kicks the apple flavour of the sauce up a notch.  I use brown sugar in my applesauce and also add some pure maple syrup because I like a rich applesauce and both of these ingredients contribute to the lovely color of the sauce.  I don’t add much in the way of spices because it’s the apple flavour I am looking for.  So, just a small amount of cinnamon and nutmeg is all I add.

      Applesauce
      Homemade Applesauce

      Let the apples simmer away on the stove until they are perfectly soft and mushy.  For chunky style applesauce, simply mash the cooked apples with a potato masher.  If you like a smoother sauce (like the the sauce photographed here), let the apple mixture cool for a bit and then purée it to desired consistency using either an immersion or regular countertop blender.

      Applesauce
      Homemade Applesauce

      This applesauce freezes very well in airtight freezer containers. It’s delightful on its own with a good chunk of cheddar cheese and biscuits warm from the oven.  Applesauce has a multitude of uses, including as an ingredient in my Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins. Of course, it’s a dandy side to porkchop dishes, as well.

      Applesauce
      Homemade Applesauce with an Extra Sprinkle of Cinnamon

      [Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

      Homemade Applesauce

      Ingredients:

      5 lbs apples (e.g., any combination of Cortlands, Jonagold, MacIntosh, Honeycrisp varieties)
      1 tbsp lemon juice
      ¾ cup apple juice (or water)
      1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
      3 tbsp pure maple syrup
      1/8 tsp salt
      ½ tsp cinnamon
      ¼ tsp nutmeg

      Method:

      Wash, peel, and core apples.  Cut apples into four wedges and then cut each wedge into three to four smaller wedges, depending on the size of apples.

      Place apples in large stockpot, sprinkling with lemon juice and tossing gently with a large spoon to coat with the lemon juice.  Add remaining ingredients and stir well.  Place stockpot over medium-high heat and bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, and stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes, or until apples have completely softened.

      Remove from heat and mash apples with a potato masher for chunky-style sauce. For smoother sauce, let apples cool for several minutes and use an immersion blender (or regular countertop blender) to purée apple mixture to desired consistency.

      Refrigerate sauce, covered, for up to 3-4 days or freeze in airtight freezer containers for longer storage.

      Yield:  Apx. 7 cups

      Homemade Applesauce

      A combination of sweet and tart varieties of apples are the basis for this delicious homemade applesauce that is simple to make and freezes well.
      Course Side Dish
      Cuisine American
      Keyword applesauce
      Prep Time 10 minutes
      Cook Time 30 minutes
      Total Time 40 minutes
      Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

      Ingredients

      • 5 lbs apples e.g., any combination of Cortlands, Jonagold, MacIntosh, Honeycrisp varieties
      • 1 tbsp lemon juice
      • ¾ cup apple juice or water
      • 1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
      • 3 tbsp pure maple syrup
      • 1/8 tsp salt
      • ½ tsp cinnamon
      • ¼ tsp nutmeg

      Instructions

      1. Wash, peel, and core apples. Cut apples into four wedges and then cut each wedge into three to four smaller wedges, depending on the size of apples.
      2. Place apples in large stockpot, sprinkling with lemon juice and tossing gently with a large spoon to coat with the lemon juice. Add remaining ingredients and stir well. Place stockpot over medium-high heat and bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, and stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes, or until apples have completely softened.
      3. Remove from heat and mash apples with a potato masher for chunky-style sauce. For smoother sauce, let apples cool for several minutes and use an immersion blender (or regular countertop blender) to purée apple mixture to desired consistency.
      4. Refrigerate sauce, covered, for up to 3-4 days or freeze in airtight freezer containers for longer storage.

      Recipe Notes

      Yield: Apx. 7 cups

      Pin Me To Pinterest!

      Applesauce

      Gluten Free Butter Tarts

      Butter Tarts
      Gluten-free and Lactose-Free Butter Tarts

      These old-fashioned butter tarts are actually both gluten free and lactose free.  If you are not lactose intolerant, simply substitute regular butter and milk in the recipe.

      Quite some time ago, I shared my traditional butter tart recipe.  However, folks have been inquiring about a gluten-free recipe for the tarts so here it is. I won’t repeat my hints and tips for making butter tarts in this posting because the same ones hold true for the gluten-free version so I am directing readers to my original posting for butter tarts for this information.

      Butter Tarts
      Gluten-Free and Lactose-Free Butter Tarts

      I don’t like a big glob of thick pastry in my butter tarts. As far as I am concerned, it is the gooey, sweet filling that is the star in these tarts.  The pastry is involved just because it is the vessel to hold the filling. So, I use a thin rolled pastry and fit the pastry neatly and tidily into the muffin tin cups.

      The pastry, nonetheless, still has to be tender and flaky because it is half the equation in these Canadian culinary delicacies.  The gluten-free pastry recipe is the one that I developed and perfected first for my gluten-free apple pie, originally published to my website on January 11, 2018.  It is now my go-to pastry recipe since it is perfectly tender and flaky and works well with sweet and savory pies as well as tarts.

      As with my traditional butter tarts, you will find that the filling is slightly gooey but not too runny.  I don’t care for tarts that, as soon as you bite into them, the filling pours out.  The reason why I like a semi-solid filling is that I believe butter tarts should be able to be picked up off a plate and eaten by hand with no need for a plate and fork to catch a runny filling.  This, of course, is purely a personal preference.

      Butter Tarts
      Gluten-Free and Lactose-Free Butter Tarts

      [Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

      Gluten-Free Lactose-Free Butter Tarts

      Ingredients:

      For Pastry:

      2 cups (276g) gluten-free 1-to-1 flour
      ½ tsp salt
      1½ tsp sugar

      ¼ cup cold lactose-free butter (76g)
      ¼ cup cold lard (76g)

      1 large egg
      1 tsp white vinegar
      Enough water to make 2/3 cup liquid

      For Filling:
      ½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
      ¼ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
      2 extra-large eggs, light beaten
      3 tbsp pure maple syrup
      ¼ cup melted butter (no substitutes)
      2 tbsp lactose-free milk (2%MF or 3%MF)
      1½ tsp pure vanilla
      1 tsp white vinegar
      Dash salt

      Method:

      For Pastry:  Lightly grease 12 muffin cups.  In medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and sugar together.  Cut the butter and lard into chunks and add to the flour.  With a pastry cutter, cut the butter and lard into the flour until the fats resemble the size of large peas.

      In a measuring cup, whisk the egg and vinegar together.  Add enough cold water to measure 2/3 cup.  Add the egg-vinegar-water mixture to the flour, small amounts at a time, and mix with a fork or hands.  Add only enough water that the dough clings together and can be gathered into a ball (it may not take all the liquid).

      Divide the dough in four pieces.  Form disk shapes with each piece. Place disks in the refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes to chill. Remove one disk at a time from the refrigerator and break off chunks, about 2 oz in size, which should give ample for 4” circles to be cut for each tart.  Place dough between two sheets of parchment paper (or wax paper) lightly dusted with flour. Roll pastry to desired thickness, generally between 1/16”and 1/8” thickness. Peel the top piece of parchment from the rolled out pastry. Cut out pastry circles with a floured 4” round cookie cutter.

      Carefully transfer each cut out pastry circle to muffin tin cup. Fit the pastry into the cup, ensuring there are no air pockets between the pastry and the muffin cups. Repeat with chilled dough to make enough pastry circles for 12 tart shells, gathering up and re-rolling pastry scraps as necessary.  Place pan of tart shells in freezer for about 12-15 minutes to chill to prevent shrinkage of pastry during baking.

      For Filling:  Preheat oven to 400°F.  Add all ingredients, in order given, into a 4-cup measuring cup.  Whisk or stir until ingredients are well blended.  Remove the muffin cups from the freezer and pour filling equally into the 12 muffin cups. Bake at 400°F for 5 minutes then reduce temperature to 375°F and bake tarts for 17-19 minutes or until filling domes and appears set.   Let tarts cool at least 30 minutes in muffin tins on cooling rack.  Using the tip of a sharp knife, gently lift the tarts from the muffin cups.

      Yield:  12 tarts

      Gluten-Free Butter Tarts

      These gluten-free (and lactose-free) melt-in-your-mouth pastries are filled with a delectable, slightly gooey, but not too runny, buttery rich caramel-like filling. A classic Canadian culinary delicacy.

      Course Dessert
      Keyword butter tarts
      Servings 11
      Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

      Ingredients

      For Pastry:

      • 2 cups gluten-free 1-to-1 flour (276g)
      • ½ tsp salt
      • tsp sugar
      • ¼ cup cold lactose-free butter (76g)
      • ¼ cup cold lard (76g)
      • 1 large egg
      • 1 tsp white vinegar
      • Enough water to make 2/3 cup liquid

      For Filling:

      • ½ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
      • ¼ cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
      • 2 extra-large eggs, light beaten
      • 3 tbsp pure maple syrup
      • ¼ cup melted butter (no substitutes)
      • 2 tbsp lactose-free milk (2%MF or 3%MF)
      • tsp pure vanilla
      • 1 tsp white vinegar
      • Dash salt

      Instructions

      For Pastry:

      1. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups. In medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and sugar together. Cut the butter and lard into chunks and add to the flour. With a pastry cutter, cut the butter and lard into the flour until the fats resemble the size of large peas.
      2. In a measuring cup, whisk the egg and vinegar together. Add enough cold water to measure 2/3 cup. Add the egg-vinegar-water mixture to the flour, small amounts at a time, and mix with a fork or hands. Add only enough water that the dough clings together and can be gathered into a ball (it may not take all the liquid).
      3. Divide the dough in four pieces. Form disk shapes with each piece. Place disks in the refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes to chill. Remove one disk at a time from the refrigerator and break off chunks, about 2 oz in size, which should give ample for 4” circles to be cut for each tart. Place dough between two sheets of parchment paper (or wax paper) lightly dusted with flour. Roll pastry to desired thickness, generally between 1/16”and 1/8” thickness. Peel the top piece of parchment from the rolled out pastry. Cut out pastry circles with a floured 4” round cookie cutter.
      4. Carefully transfer each cut out pastry circle to muffin tin cup. Fit the pastry into the cup, ensuring there are no air pockets between the pastry and the muffin cups. Repeat with chilled dough to make enough pastry circles for 12 tart shells, gathering up and re-rolling pastry scraps as necessary. Place pan of tart shells in freezer for about 12-15 minutes to chill to prevent shrinkage of pastry during baking.

      For Filling:

      1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Add all ingredients, in order given, into a 4-cup measuring cup. Whisk or stir until ingredients are well blended. Remove the muffin cups from the freezer and pour filling equally into the 12 muffin cups. Bake at 400°F for 5 minutes then reduce temperature to 375°F and bake tarts for 17-19 minutes or until filling domes and appears set. Let tarts cool at least 30 minutes in muffin tins on cooling rack. Using the tip of a sharp knife, gently lift the tarts from the muffin cups.

      Pin Me To Pinterest!

      Butter Tarts
      Gluten-Free Butter Tarts

      Classic Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup

      Classic Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup

      Nothing beats homemade soup!  True comfort food – a bowl of hot soup, especially on a cool fall or cold winter day, warms the tummy and the soul. This Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup fits that bill nicely.

      I make lots of soups and, for my purposes, they have to be freezer-friendly.  I have a large collection of single-serving plastic containers that I use to freeze my soups. Each is labelled and dated. Most days, I take a soup to work – I have the different varieties of soup I make all stacked on shelves in my large upright freezer.  Each stack contains a selection of the different soups so I am not eating the same kind of soup two days in a row.  My alarm clock rings at 4:50am and I am on the highway early and at work by 7:00am so I need healthy, nourishing lunches I can pull together quickly on my way out the door.  Frozen soups are my lifesaver!  I can pull together my lunch bag contents in under a minute – usually a frozen soup, a frozen pre-wrapped muffin, yogurt, and a couple of pieces of fruit. By noon, the soup has thawed and heats quickly, in my Corningware soup mug, in the microwave for a tasty, filling, and nutritious lunch.

      Cream of Broccoli Soup
      Classic Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup

      This Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup is a favorite.  With its velvety texture and soft green color, this soup is also packed full of flavourful and aromatic ingredients – leek, onion, garlic, celery, carrots, parsnip, potato, chicken broth, milk, cheese, and a carefully curated blend of spices for subtle seasoning.

      This soup, like all good homemade soups, takes some time to make.  The leeks, onions, celery, garlic, carrots, parsnips, and sliced broccoli stems get sautéed in butter and olive oil until the ingredients are fragrant and the onions transparent.  Chicken broth is added along with the potatoes, broccoli florets, and seasonings. The veggies are cooked in the broth until they are soft.  This method ensures that no nutrients are lost and nothing is poured down the drain.  The recipe calls for 3 oz of leek. If leeks, which always seem to be sold in bundles of three, are not something you presently have other uses for (but my Potato Leek Soup, for example, would make good use of them….just sayin’) then, rather than buying a bundle of them for this recipe alone, substitute an additional half cup of chopped onion.  The leeks do add a lovely layer of flavour to the Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup but, because of their expense, a substitution amount of onion is provided here.  This half cup of onion would be in addition to the half cup called for in the recipe.

      Broccoli is the primary ingredient in this soup and both florets and stems are used except for the big base stalk.  The florets cook quickly but their stems can take longer and they can be difficult to get puréed. The more cooked the veggies are, the easier it will be to purée them and get a lovely smooth-textured soup.  I have found that, if I use my small handheld mandolin to slice the broccoli stems all the way up to the florets, they cook better and faster.  I slice them very thin – 1/16” thick.

      Prepping Broccoli for Soup
      Prepping Broccoli for Soup

      The cooked vegetables need to be cooled before being puréed. I don’t like pouring hot mixtures into my blender jug.  The mixture does not have to be completely cooled, but certainly cool enough to work with.  I often set the stock pot in a sink of ice-cold water to flash cool the cooked vegetables so that the soup can be completed faster.  Work in batches to purée the vegetables. Fill the jug of a blender with about a cup of the soup mixture to start then, when it is puréed, add another 1 – 1½ cups, never filling the jug more than half full. Purée the mixture until perfectly smooth.  Transfer the puréed mixture to a clean stock pot.  Continue with this process until all vegetables have been puréed.

      This is a cream soup so, obviously, its texture is meant to be creamy.  For this reason, I do not recommend fat-reduced milk be used in this recipe for Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup.  Not only will it not have a velvety texture but, for freezing purposes, soups made with fat-reduced milk do not, in my opinion, have an appealing consistency nor appearance.  I recommend using whole milk or even a combination of whole milk and cream.  Cream soups are one food item in which I recommend “the really good stuff” be used.  There are several steps and some time involved in making cream soup so the time and effort is worth using high quality ingredients. I like this soup fairly thick; however, if someone likes their Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup thinner consistency, additional milk may be added to achieve the desired consistency.  The additional milk should be added by small amounts at a time as this soup is not meant to be watery and thin.

      Cream of Broccoli Soup
      Classic Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup

      For this Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup, I thicken the milk separately and add it to the puréed vegetables at the end of the cooking process.  To do this, use a small saucepan to melt some butter. Add the flour for thickening along with the milk, cooking this mixture until it is thickened before adding it to the puréed vegetable mixture.  Once the soup mixture is heated (never boiling), add the grated cheese and heat the soup just until the cheese is melted. A medium-to-old cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded can be used for this soup.  However, the soup will be more flavorful if a blend of melting cheeses, such as cheddar, mozzarella, and provolone  is used.  Today, there are a number of pre-shredded cheeses packaged in blends and my favorite for this soup is a mix of cheeses.

      Garnish the soup with sour cream, shredded cheese, and fresh herbs, if desired.

      Cream of Broccoli Soup
      Classic Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup

      [Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

       Classic Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup

      Ingredients:

      1 medium-large head of broccoli (apx. 1½ lb)
      3 tbsp butter
      2 tbsp olive oil
      3 oz leek (white and light green parts only), sliced thin (about 1/8“ thick) [Note: ½ cup chopped onion may be substituted if leeks are not available]
      ½ cup onion, chopped
      ¼ cup celery, chopped
      6 – 7 garlic cloves, minced
      ½ cup carrots, sliced thin
      1/3 cup parsnip, sliced thin, about 1/16“ thick
      1 lb potatoes, peeled and diced into ¼“cubes
      ¾ tsp dry mustard
      ½ tsp dried summer savory
      ¼ tsp paprika
      ¼ tsp dried dill
      1/8 tsp nutmeg
      Pinch cayenne
      4 cups chicken stock
      2-3 bay leaves

      3 tbsp butter
      ½ cup minus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
      2 cups whole milk
      1 cup cheddar cheese (or a blend of melting cheeses of choice, coarsely shredded
      ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
      2-3 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
      Freshly ground pepper and fine sea salt, to taste

      Method:

      Remove broccoli stems from large thick base stalk. Discard stalk and break the broccoli head apart, leaving the long floret stems intact.  Wash and drain broccoli well.  Using a handheld mandolin, slice the broccoli stems thin, about 1/16” thick, all the way up to the florets.  Break apart florets into smaller pieces so they will cook faster.

      Melt butter in large stockpot over medium heat.  Add olive oil.  Reduce heat slightly and add the leek, onion, celery, minced garlic cloves, carrots, parsnip, and sliced broccoli stems. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring briskly, until vegetables are fragrant and onion is transparent.

      Add the potato, spices, chicken stock, and bay leaves. Cover and bring to a boil.  Cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the broccoli florets and cook for 15-20 minutes or until all vegetables are quite soft.  Cool. Remove and discard bay leaves. Purée vegetables in blender until mixture is very smooth. Work in batches, starting with one cup of the mixture, puréeing it until smooth, then adding another 1 to 1½ cups, never filling the blender jug more than half full at a time.  Transfer puréed mixture to clean stockpot.

      In small saucepan, over medium heat, melt 3 tbsp butter.  Sprinkle with the flour and stir vigorously for several seconds.  Slowly whisk the milk into the butter-flour mixture, ensuring there are no lumps.  Stir mixture until it thickens then pour it into the pureed vegetables.  Heat soup over medium heat but do not boil.  Add the cheeses and stir until cheeses are melted.  If soup is thicker than desired, add additional milk, small amounts at a time, to thin it to desired consistency. Lastly, add the parsley. Soup freezes well. Garnish as desired.

      Yield:  Apx. 10-12 servings (apx 1 cup per serving).

      Notes:
      To make this soup lactose-free, use lactose-free butter, milk, and cheese. To make the soup gluten-free, use same amount of gluten-free 1-to-1 flour to thicken the soup and ensure all other ingredients called for in the recipe are gluten free.

      Classic Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup

      Cozy up with a bowl of this delicious homemade Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup that is sure to satisfy the tastebuds.
      Course Soup
      Cuisine American
      Servings 10
      Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

      Ingredients

      • 1 medium-large head of broccoli, apx. 1½ lb
      • 3 tbsp butter
      • 2 tbsp olive oil
      • 3 oz leek, white and light green parts only, sliced thin (about 1/8“ thick) [Note: ½ cup chopped onion may be substituted if leeks are not available]
      • ½ cup onion, chopped
      • ¼ cup celery, chopped
      • 6 - 7 garlic cloves, minced
      • ½ cup carrots, sliced thin
      • 1/3 cup parsnip, sliced thin, about 1/16“ thick
      • 1 lb potatoes, peeled and diced into ¼“cubes
      • ¾ tsp dry mustard
      • ½ tsp dried summer savory
      • ¼ tsp paprika
      • ¼ tsp dried dill
      • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
      • Pinch cayenne
      • 4 cups chicken stock
      • 2-3 bay leaves
      • 3 tbsp butter
      • ½ cup minus 1 tbsp all-purpose flour
      • 2 cups whole milk
      • 1 cup cheddar cheese (or a blend of melting cheeses of choice), coarsely shredded
      • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
      • 2-3 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
      • Freshly ground pepper and fine sea salt, to taste

      Instructions

      1. Remove broccoli stems from large thick base stalk. Discard stalk and break the broccoli head apart, leaving the long floret stems intact. Wash and drain broccoli well. Using a handheld mandolin, slice the broccoli stems thin, about 1/16” thick, all the way up to the florets. Break apart florets into smaller pieces so they will cook faster.
      2. Melt butter in large stockpot over medium heat. Add olive oil. Reduce heat slightly and add the leek, onion, celery, minced garlic cloves, carrots, parsnip, and sliced broccoli stems. Sauté for 4-5 minutes, stirring briskly, until vegetables are fragrant and onion is transparent.
      3. Add the potato, spices, chicken stock, and bay leaves. Cover and bring to a boil. Cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the broccoli florets and cook for 15-20 minutes or until all vegetables are quite soft. Cool. Remove and discard bay leaves. Purée vegetables in blender until mixture is very smooth. Work in batches, starting with one cup of the mixture, puréeing it until smooth, then adding another 1 to 1½ cups, never filling the blender jug more than half full at a time. Transfer puréed mixture to clean stockpot.
      4. In small saucepan, over medium heat, melt 3 tbsp butter. Sprinkle with the flour and stir vigorously for several seconds. Slowly whisk the milk into the butter-flour mixture, ensuring there are no lumps. Stir mixture until it thickens then pour it into the pureed vegetables. Heat soup over medium heat but do not boil. Add the cheeses and stir until cheeses are melted. If soup is thicker than desired, add additional milk, small amounts at a time, to thin it to desired consistency. Lastly, add the parsley. Soup freezes well. Garnish as desired.

      Recipe Notes

      To make this soup lactose-free, use lactose-free butter, milk, and cheese. To make the soup gluten-free, use same amount of gluten-free 1-to-1 flour to thicken the soup and ensure all other ingredients called for in the recipe are gluten free.

      For other great soup, chowder, chili, and stock/broth recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

      SOUPS

      Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup
      Cream of Celery Soup
      Ham Lentil Soup
      Roasted Cream of Cauliflower Soup
      Rich and Hearty Goulash Soup
      PEI Potato Leek Soup
      Cream of Winter Root Vegetable Soup
      Cock-A-Leekie Soup
      Roasted Cream of Asparagus Soup
      Hamburger Soup
      The Bistro’s Beefy Minestrone
      Classic Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

      CHOWDERS

      PEI Mussel Chowder
      Turkey Chowder

      STOCKS/BROTH

      Homemade Turkey Stock
      Homemade Beef Stock

      CHILI

      My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Chili

      Pin Me To Pinterest!

      Broccoli Soup
      Classic Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup

      On The Sandwich Board: Turkey, Pear, Brie, and Cranberry Sandwich

      Turkey Sandwich
      Turkey, Pear, Brie, and Cranberry Sandwich

      On my sandwich board today, I have a lovely gourmet turkey sandwich and this one comes fully dressed!  Note this sandwich can also be made with chicken as a substitute for turkey.

      This is often a sandwich I make when I have roasted a turkey or chicken and have leftover meat.  However, sometimes, I will roast some boneless, skinless chicken breasts specifically to use for sandwiches and that works equally well.

      The dressing for this sandwich is made with mayonnaise combined with some cranberry sauce or cranberry blueberry sauce (pictured in these photos) and a bit of Dijon mustard.  I typically just apply this dressing to one of the slices of bread although it can certainly be used on both. This dressing adds both flavor and color to the sandwich.  The cranberry sauce can color the turkey and Brie; however, if some lettuce is added between the sandwich contents and the dressing, the lettuce will act as a barrier and prevent any discoloring of the meat or cheese.

      The trick to coming up with a tasty sandwich is to consider what flavors blend well together in harmony.  For this sandwich, I have paired the turkey with some thin slices of Bosc pear and some Brie cheese.  This sandwich is lovely cold or it can be heated in a panini maker. It’s best served immediately.

      Serve the sandwich with bread and butter pickles, fresh vegetables, potato chips, or a cup of your favorite soup.  This sandwich pairs particularly well with Roasted Butternut Squash Soup.

      Turkey Sandwich
      Turkey, Pear, Brie, and Cranberry Sandwich

      [Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

      Turkey, Pear, Brie, and Cranberry Sandwich

      Ingredients:

      2 slices bread of choice
      Butter, softened

      1 tbsp mayonnaise
      2 tsp cranberry sauce (or cranberry-blueberry sauce)
      ¾ tsp Dijon mustard

      2-3 tsp mayonnaise

      Leafy lettuce of choice

      2½ oz – 3 oz cooked turkey (or chicken) breast slices
      2 thin slices Bosc pear, sprinkled with lemon juice to retard browning
      1 oz Brie cheese (rind removed), sliced about 1/8 – ¼” thick
      Salt and pepper, to taste

      Method:

      Butter bread slices. In small bowl, mix mayonnaise, cranberry sauce, and Dijon mustard.  Spread mayonnaise-cranberry sauce mixture on one slice of bread.  Spread 2-3 tsp mayonnaise on the other bread slice.

      Lay lettuce on slice of bread spread with mayonnaise.  Top with the turkey (or chicken) slices.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Layer with 2 slices of pear.  Arrange Brie over pear.  Arrange lettuce over pear. Top with second slice of bread spread with cranberry-mayonnaise mixture.

      Slice sandwich in half, diagonally, and serve.

      Serving Suggestions:  Serve with Bread and Butter Pickles, Fresh Vegetables, Potato Chips, or a cup of your favorite soup.  Pairs particularly well with Roasted Butternut Squash Soup.

      Serves:  1

      NOTE:  Sandwich may be heated in panini maker

       

      Turkey, Pear, Brie, and Cranberry Sandwich

      A tasty sandwich that combines sliced cooked turkey with Bosc pear, Brie, and a delectable sandwich dressing made with cranberry sauce, Dijon mustard, and mayonnaise.
      Course Main Course
      Cuisine American
      Servings 1
      Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

      Ingredients

      • 2 slices bread of choice
      • Butter, softened
      • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
      • 2 tsp cranberry sauce or cranberry blueberry sauce
      • ¾ tsp Dijon mustard
      • 2-3 tsp mayonnaise
      • Leafy lettuce of choice
      • oz – 3 oz cooked turkey or chicken breast slices
      • 2 thin slices Bosc pear, sprinkled with lemon juice to retard browning
      • 1 oz Brie cheese, rind removed, sliced about 1/8 – ¼” thick
      • Salt and pepper, to taste

      Instructions

      1. Butter bread slices. In small bowl, mix mayonnaise, cranberry sauce, and Dijon mustard. Spread mayonnaise-cranberry sauce mixture on one slice of bread. Spread 2-3 tsp mayonnaise on the other bread slice.
      2. Lay lettuce on slice of bread spread with mayonnaise. Top with the turkey (or chicken) slices. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Layer with 2 slices of pear. Arrange Brie over pear. Arrange lettuce over pear. Top with second slice of bread spread with cranberry-mayonnaise mixture.
      3. Slice sandwich in half, diagonally, and serve.
      4. Serving Suggestions: Serve with Bread and Butter Pickles, Fresh Vegetables, Potato Chips, or a cup of your favorite soup. Pairs particularly well with Roasted Butternut Squash Soup.

      Recipe Notes

      Serves: 1 NOTE: Sandwich may be heated in panini maker

       

      Pin Me To Pinterest!

      Turkey Sandwich
      Turkey, Pear, Brie, and Cranberry Sandwich

      An Autumnal Themed Thanksgiving Dinner

      Thanksgiving Dinner
      Autumnal-themed Thanksgiving Dinner

      Undisputedly, a big roasted turkey is the traditional star of the Thanksgiving dinner in many North American homes.  Playing the supporting roles, of course, are all the fixins’, including the variety of vegetables and gravy. This year, however, I am deviating from the norm and putting a new twist on Thanksgiving dinner, lightening it up and sizing it down for smaller households, while still staying true to some of the elements of what one would expect to be on the Thanksgiving dinner table.  Here’s why I’ve shaken up the norm a bit.

      Sizing Down and Lightening up the Thanksgiving Dinner

      I sometimes hear people say they don’t want to cook a big turkey, or even a whole chicken, because perhaps they have a small household of only one, two, or three people and it’s just too much meat for them.  And, then there is the large carcass to deal with – though I am a big proponent of using it to make great homemade stock (click here for my stock recipe).  Others have indicated they don’t have a big roaster in which to roast a turkey and still some others say they don’t know how to roast a turkey to get it cooked properly.  I have heard some say that, while they like a roast turkey dinner, it can be a heavy meal with rich gravy, heavily spiced stuffing, and so forth. Others may be on a restricted diet making it a challenge to, alternatively, dine out for Thanksgiving dinner.  Whatever the reason, I have decided to create a Thanksgiving dinner menu suitable for the smaller household and those looking for lighter fare.

      Now, it can be challenging to size everything down precisely to one or two servings and, to be frank, it’s not the most cost-effective or efficient approach to meal preparation for the smaller household.  I learned that many years ago and that’s when I moved to batch cooking for the freezer which allows me to have much greater meal variety than would be the case if I was to spend time in the kitchen preparing unique daily meals for one or two.  This menu, by the way, is also suitable for any autumnal dinner party and the recipes referenced are scalable to the number of servings required.

      Bread
      Baguette

      Menu Inspiration

      The inspiration for the menu was drawn primarily from seasonal foods, those that would be considered to be fall flavors. While varied from the traditional Thanksgiving dinner style, I aimed to still maintain elements of a typical Thanksgiving dinner. From the gourd family comes the butternut squash for the soup.  From the garden come the fresh greens, vine-ripened tomatoes, beets, and carrots.  From the fields of a local farmer, come the potatoes.  From the cranberry bogs and high bush blueberry field come the cranberries and blueberries.  And, from a local orchard and distillery come the apples and liqueur for the dessert. In lieu of turkey, I have opted to go with chicken breasts though turkey breasts could certainly be used.  The chicken breasts are smaller to roast and plate quite attractively. The steamed mussels for an appetizer have been included because, well, it’s PEI and we love our mussels any time of the year!

      The table is set – it’s time to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner!

      Placesetting
      Thanksgiving Dinner Placesetting

      The Menu

      Food is meant to be enjoyed and savored, not hurriedly consumed.  This menu and its serving style aim for that objective.

      Appetizers

      Island Blue Mussels steamed in Upstreet’s “Rhuby Social” beer

      Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini

      Soup

      Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

      Served with a toasted baguette slice topped with cheese, bacon, and chives

      Salad

      Mix of Garden Greens with Vine-ripened Mini Tomatoes and Button Mushrooms

      Dressed with Raspberry Vinaigrette and served from the salad urn, tableside

       Main

      Roasted Chicken Breast with a dry rub of spices

      Served over Sausage Bread Dressing

      Accompaniments

      Petite Roasted Potato Stacks

      Thinly sliced potato tossed with melted butter, herbs, and cheese then roasted

      Roasted Beets and Carrots

      Cranberry Blueberry Sauce

      Dessert

      Apple-Maple Bread Pudding with Maple Sauce

      Wine Pairing

         Clean Slate 2016 Riesling (Germany)

       

      The Appetizers

      It’s almost bordering on the sacrilegious if either (or both) steamed mussels and oysters are not on the menu for a gathering here in PEI!  Yes, we love our seafood!  I’ve chosen Island Blue Mussels steamed in Upstreet’s “Rhuby Social” beer (recipe here).  Steaming mussels in beer lends a wonderful flavor to the mussels.  Easy and quick to prepare, these mussels are a great start to a wonderful meal.

      PEI Mussels
      PEI Mussels Steamed in Rhuby Social Beer from Upstreet Craft Brewing

      The second appetizer I’ve chosen is the Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini (recipe here).  These little morsels are ever-so-tasty.  This recipe is easy to reduce or increase in size, depending on the number of guests and either wheat-based or gluten-free baguettes can be used.

      Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini
      Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini

      The Soup

      Our Thanksgiving dinner this year starts with Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, a stunning golden yellow soup that is smooth and luxurious and filled with the warm flavors of fall (click here for recipe). This soup is a great way to kick off an autumnal dinner. My recipe for this soup makes 8-10 servings so, if making the soup specifically for Thanksgiving dinner in a small household, the remainder can be frozen for later enjoyment.  Alternatively, the soup can be made in advance of Thanksgiving, frozen, and then the number of servings needed thawed and reheated for the dinner.  I love when I can do prep work for dinners days ahead as it relieves some of the work and stress on the day of the dinner.

      Squash Soup
      Classic Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

      Serving the soup at the table from a soup tureen adds a lovely touch to a special meal or dinner party.

      Squash Soup
      Classic Butternut Squash Soup

      The soup tureen can also serve as a table centerpiece for the soup course.

      Soup
      Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

      The Salad

      Our garden did fabulously this year.  We grow a grand selection of lettuce that usually takes us well into the fall, sometimes until late October.  Our one tomato plant with mini tomatoes has literally produced hundreds of tiny orange tomatoes this year.  It was a very prolific producer and we have been blessed to have its produce right through to Thanksgiving, even if it meant blanketing it down on frost nights in order to keep it producing.

      Salad
      Salad Urn

      My salad bowl is a small ceramic urn-shaped planter which also serves as the table centerpiece for the salad course.  It’s a great conversation piece and it elevates the status of the salad! When using a unique vessel, like this urn, for the salad ingredients to be assembled at the table, opt for few ingredients that can easily be divided between plates. It’s not always necessary to have a multitude of ingredients in a salad, particularly if it is a starter to a meal.  In this salad, all I’ve used is a selection of lettuce, tiny tomatoes, and button mushrooms served with a simple raspberry vinaigrette. I like vinaigrettes because they allow the flavour of the vegetables to shine through as they are not masked by a heavy cream dressing.

      Salad
      Edible Salad Centrepiece

      Chicken Breasts

      Chicken breasts sometimes get a bad rap for being dry.  I think this is because they have not been properly prepared and cooked.  I always brine my chicken breasts – it makes such a huge difference in both flavor and texture and no more dried out, stringy chicken.  All I do is place the chicken breasts in a salt brine for 1½ – 2 hours, rinse them off, then pat them dry with paper towel followed by a light brushing of some olive oil and a sprinkle of selected dry spices.  Then, into my convection oven set at 400°F they go just until they test done on my trusty meat thermometer.  The high heat locks in the juices and cooks the chicken fast so it does not get a chance to dry out.  The result is perfectly cooked and juicy chicken …. every time.  The great thing about boneless skinless chicken breasts is it’s all meat and no waste and they slice beautifully for plating, sandwiches, etc.

      Chicken
      Sliced Roasted Chicken Breast

      The Dressing

      For my Thanksgiving dinner, I have plated the sliced chicken over sausage bread dressing – recipe here.  This is not a heavily spiced dressing so it is in keeping with my “lighter” Thanksgiving dinner theme yet it still bows to the tradition of having stuffing/dressing as a side dish at dinner.  In fact, I will often make this recipe and freeze it for later use when I am having some kind of chicken dish for a meal.  So, this is also something that can be made ahead for this dinner and the dressing can be heated for just a few seconds in the microwave.

      Stuffing Recipe
      Sweet and Savory Sausage Bread Stuffing

      The Potatoes

      Because this meal is meant to be light, the traditional gravy is absent.  This meant I needed to come up with a potato side dish that did not need gravy.  These Roasted Potato Stacks (recipe here), are the perfect potato side dish.  These are not difficult to make and, with the butter, garlic, herbs, and cheeses, these tasty morsels are simply divine.  They bake perfectly in muffin cups and plate beautifully.  They are best served fresh from the oven.  However, they can be pre-made, roasted, and refrigerated for up to 24 hours then reheated for a few minutes in the oven.  So, again, this is a menu item that can be made in advance of the dinner.  While my published recipe makes eight potato stacks (serves four), the recipe is easily halved (or, alternatively, make the whole recipe and enjoy leftovers the following day).

      Potato Stacks
      Roasted Potato Stacks

      The Roasted Vegetables

      For my vegetable side dishes, I decided to go really local — all the way to our backyard garden!  Beets and freshly dug carrots were roasted with herbs in the oven.  I love roasted vegetables because their true flavors are evident and no nutrients or flavor are washed down the drain as can be the case with boiled vegetables.  The beets were tossed with a spritz or two of raspberry balsamic vinegar and the same of orange juice.  The key is not to add too much liquid to the roasted vegetables that would make them soupy or lose their roasted flavor.  Both the vinegar and orange juice are just meant to be flavor enhancers so very little is needed.

      Thanksgiving
      Thanksgiving DInner

      The Condiment

      For the condiment, I’m serving my Cranberry Blueberry Sauce.  This sauce is a beautiful deep burgundy-plum color and combines two complementary flavors.  The tartness of the cranberries is enhanced by the sweetness of the high bush blueberries.  Click here for my recipe.

      Sauce
      Cranberry Blueberry Sauce

      The Dessert

      To bring one of the quintessential fall flavors into the menu, I am serving Apple-Maple Bread Pudding with Maple Sauce (recipe here).  Both the pudding and the sauce freeze well for later use and both can be made ahead of the dinner, thawed, and reheated for dessert.

      Bread Pudding
      Apple-Maple Bread Pudding

      The Wine Pairing

      The wine I’ve paired with this meal is Clean Slate, a 2016 Riesling from Mosel, Germany, an affordable wine that appeals to a variety of tastes.  When selecting the wine for this meal, I considered the menu items, both individually and collectively.  Thanksgiving dinner plates tend to have a variety of foods with flavors that span the spectrum from sweet (Cranberry-Blueberry Sauce) to the moist and gently spiced (Sausage Bread Dressing) to the herbed and roasted (the vegetables) to the slight saltiness (brined chicken breast).  With that variety, it can be a challenge to select one wine that will temper and balance all the flavors and cleanse and refresh the palate between bites so that the true flavors of each of the foods can be enjoyed.

      A Riesling wine is a great choice because it has low alcohol content with lots of palate-refreshing acidity along with a slight touch of sweetness to balance and complement the variety of flavors.

      Thanksgiving
      Thanksgiving Dinner

      So, whether you’re looking for inspiration for a Thanksgiving dinner with a lighter fare, one that is suitable for smaller households, or for an autumnal-themed dinner party, this menu is scalable to virtually any number, big or small. All recipes referenced can be found on My Island Bistro Kitchen’s website, a one-stop destination for recipes for a tasty fall dinner.

      Pin Me To Pinterest!

      Thanksgiving
      Thanksgiving Dinner 2018

      Roasted Potato Stacks

      Potato Stacks
      Roasted Potato Stacks

      Living in a province known for its potato production, it’s almost inevitable that potatoes are served at many meals on PEI dinner tables.  There are any number of ways this versatile veggie can be served and, later in this posting, you’ll find links to some of my favorite potato recipes.

      Roasted Potato Stacks are my latest creation involving potatoes. They are very tasty and do plate quite attractively. They are also suitable for serving at buffets.

      Potato Stacks
      Roasted Potato Stacks

      Because these potato stacks are free-standing when cooked and removed from the muffin cups, they need to be able to stand on their own when plated. The goal is also to see the individual slices of the potato. I recommend choosing potatoes that have a medium starch content, are semi-waxy, and have somewhat firm flesh such as Yukon Gold, or an all-purpose round white potato variety. These are the types of potatoes that will hold their shape after cooking and when plated and they can take the higher heat at which the stacks are roasted without falling apart or becoming mushy.  Choosing potatoes that have good moisture content also helps to keep the roasted potato stacks moist.  Potatoes high in starch and low in moisture don’t hold their shape as well and tend to break down easier than less starchy or waxy potatoes. For this reason, they are not as suitable for these Roasted Potato Stacks as are their semi-waxy cousins.  Select potatoes, about 2” around, so that, when sliced very thinly, they will easily fit flatly in muffin tin cups.

      Potato Stacks
      Roasted Potato Stacks

      The key to making these Roasted Potato Stacks is to have the potato slices very thin and uniformly sized.  I have tested my recipe with three different thicknesses of potatoes – 1/16”, 3/16”, and 1/8” and my preference is 3/16” as the layers of individual potato slices in each stack are still intact and identifiable when fully roasted but they are not so thick as to cause issues getting them cooked.

      Potato Stack
      Roasted Potato Stack

      I recommend using a mandolin for quick and uniform slicing.  I have a dandy hand-held mandolin that is slick and easy for this kind of work and it saves the set up of my larger mandolin or the trials, tribulations, and time to thinly slice the potatoes by hand.

      Made with seasoned butter and a blend of cheeses, these delectable easy-to-make roasted potato stacks are a great side dish or appetizer. 

      Potato Stack
      Roasted Potato Stack

      [Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

      Roasted Potato Stacks

      Ingredients:

      2¼ lb potatoes, peeled, washed, and dried (e.g., Yukon Gold or all-purpose round white variety)
      3 tbsp melted butter
      1 tsp olive oil
      1 tsp liquid chicken bouillon
      1 tsp garlic salt
      ¾ tsp onion powder
      2 tsp fresh lemon thyme, chopped
      2 tsp fresh parsley, minced
      Pinch nutmeg (optional)
      ½ – ¾ tsp fine sea salt
      Freshly ground pepper
      ½ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
      3 tbsp Cheddar Cheese, finely grated
      1 tbsp whole milk or cream

      3 – 4 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
      Paprika (for sprinkling tops of stacks)

      Fresh thyme sprigs for garnish

      Method:

      Position oven rack in center of oven.  Preheat oven to 375°F.

      Butter eight (8) regular-sized non-stick muffin cups with butter.  Set aside.

      In small, microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter.  Add the olive oil, liquid chicken bouillon, garlic salt, onion powder, thyme, parsley, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Stir well to mix.  Stir in the Parmesan and Cheddar cheeses along with the milk or cream.

      Choose potatoes that are not overly starchy and that will hold their shape after cooking – e.g., Yukon Gold or an all-purpose round white variety.  Select potatoes the size that, when sliced horizontally, the slices will easily fit flat into the muffin cups. Using a mandolin, slice potatoes horizontally into slices 3/16” thick.  Place half the potato slices in large bowl.  Add half the mixed butter, seasonings, and cheese ingredients.  Using hands, toss the potatoes in the mixture until the slices are well coated. Add the remaining potato slices and butter mixture and continue mixing until the potato slices are coated with the mixture. Either create the stacks of potatoes in hands and place in buttered muffin cups or individually stack the potato slices directly in the muffin tin cups, stacking the slices as evenly as possible until they are about ¾ – 1” above the muffin cup rims. The stacks will shrink a bit during the roasting but building them a little higher than the muffin cup rim will ensure a good sized potato stack when cooked.

      Roast the potato stacks for about 25 minutes, then sprinkle each stack with additional grated Parmesan cheese and a light sprinkle of paprika.  Roast for 20 minutes longer, or until the tops of the potato stacks are golden and crispy, and a skewer or thin knife inserted in center of a stack indicates potatoes are tender and cooked through.  Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes then carefully run the tip of a knife around the perimeter of each muffin cup to ensure the potato stacks are loose for easy removal.  With the aid of a fork, or soup spoon, and the tip of the knife, carefully remove each potato stack and serve immediately sprinkled with additional finely-grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.

      Yield:  8 potato stacks (Suggested serving size – 2 stacks per person)

      Potato Stacks
      Plated Roasted Potato Stacks

      For other potato recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

      Twice Baked Potatoes
      Best Creamy Scalloped Potatoes
      Bistro Style Potato Patties
      Potato Salad

      Roasted Potato Stacks

      Made with seasoned butter and a blend of cheeses, these easy-to-make roasted potato stacks are a great side dish or appetizer.
      Course Side Dish
      Cuisine American
      Cook Time 50 minutes
      Resting Time 5 minutes
      Servings 4
      Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

      Ingredients

      • lb potatoes peeled, washed, and dried (e.g., Yukon Gold or all-purpose round white variety)
      • 3 tbsp melted butter
      • 1 tsp olive oil
      • 1 tsp liquid chicken bouillon
      • 1 tsp garlic salt
      • ¾ tsp onion powder
      • 2 tsp fresh lemon thyme, chopped
      • 2 tsp fresh parsley, minced
      • Pinch nutmeg (optional)
      • ½ - ¾ tsp fine sea salt
      • Freshly ground pepper
      • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
      • 3 tbsp Cheddar cheese finely grated
      • 1 tbsp whole milk or cream
      • 3 - 4 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
      • Paprika for sprinkling tops of stacks
      • Fresh thyme sprigs for garnish

      Instructions

      1. Position oven rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 375°F.
      2. Butter eight (8) regular-sized non-stick muffin cups with butter. Set aside.
      3. In small, microwave-safe bowl, melt the butter. Add the olive oil, liquid chicken bouillon, garlic salt, onion powder, thyme, parsley, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Stir well to mix. Stir in the Parmesan and Cheddar cheeses along with the milk or cream.
      4. Choose potatoes that are not overly starchy and that will hold their shape after cooking – e.g., Yukon Gold or an all-purpose round white variety. Select potatoes the size that, when sliced horizontally, the slices will easily fit flat into the muffin cups. Using a mandolin, slice potatoes horizontally into slices 3/16” thick. Place half the potato slices in large bowl. Add half the mixed butter, seasonings, and cheese ingredients. Using hands, toss the potatoes in the mixture until the slices are well coated. Add the remaining potato slices and butter mixture and continue mixing until the potato slices are coated with the mixture. Either create the stacks of potatoes in hands and place in buttered muffin cups or individually stack the potato slices directly in the muffin tin cups, stacking the slices as evenly as possible until they are about ¾ - 1” above the muffin cup rims. The stacks will shrink a bit during the roasting but building them a little higher than the muffin cup rim will ensure a good sized potato stack when cooked.
      5. Bake the potato stacks for about 25 minutes, then sprinkle each stack with additional grated Parmesan cheese and a light sprinkle of paprika. Bake for 20 minutes longer, or until the tops of the potato stacks are golden and crispy, and a skewer or thin knife inserted in center of a stack indicates potatoes are tender and cooked through. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes then carefully run the tip of a knife around the perimeter of each muffin cup to ensure the potato stacks are loose for easy removal. With the aid of a fork, or soup spoon, and the tip of the knife, carefully remove each potato stack and serve immediately sprinkled with additional finely-grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley.

      Recipe Notes

      Yield: 8 potato stacks (Suggested serving size – 2 stacks per person)

       

      Pin Me To Pinterest!

      Potato Stacks
      Roasted Potato Stacks

      Sweet and Savory Sausage Bread Stuffing

      Quite some time ago, I shared my standard “go-to” recipe for basic poultry stuffing/dressing.  At the bottom of this posting, you will find the link to that recipe and an explanation for the difference (if you don’t already know) between stuffing and dressing.

      In this Sweet and Savory Sausage Bread Stuffing recipe, I have jazzed up the stuffing by adding sausage meat to it.  Dried cranberries can also be added so long as they have first been plumped in some warm rum (or warm chicken stock) for 10-15 minutes.  Otherwise, the cranberries can be a bit hard and chewy in this stuffing.  The cranberries are an optional ingredient but they do lend a pop of color and texture to the finished product.  I sometimes, though not always, add them in. The sweetness in this stuffing comes from both the chopped apple and a bit of maple syrup which also adds to the moistness of the stuffing.

      Sausage Stuffing Recipe
      Sweet and Savory Sausage Bread Stuffing

      What gives this stuffing its unique flavour is the kind of sausage used.  My local butcher shop (KJL Meats in Charlottetown) is known for its creativity in making sausages.  To get the best choice, it means an early visit on Saturday mornings when they have their best selection available.  I have a couple of favorites I gravitate to for bread stuffing/dressing and they are sundried tomato or honey garlic sausages. Other flavours may, of course, also be used, according to personal taste preferences.  I remove the sausage casing and break up the meat then lightly scramble fry it with the aromatics (onion and celery) for 3-4 minutes, or until the meat is no longer pink.

      Here, in PEI, the seasoning of choice for many folks when it comes to poultry stuffing/dressing is the herb called summer savory and that’s what I use in my stuffing/dressing recipes. In my household, it would not be considered to be stuffing/dressing unless it is made with summer savory! Old traditions prevail!

      Sausage Bread Stuffing
      Sweet and Savory Sausage Bread Stuffing

      This recipe should yield approximately 4-5 cups of stuffing/dressing, depending on how dry/wet the potatoes are when cooked and the texture of the bread crumbs used.  The recipe, however, is easily scalable so it can be doubled, tripled, halved, and so forth to meet the size of the chicken or turkey.

      To make this recipe gluten free, simply substitute gluten-free bread crumbs in the same amount called for in this recipe and ensure that all other ingredients called for are also gluten free, including the sausage and liquid chicken bouillon.  Some butchers, like KJL Meats, do make gluten-free sausages. I save all the crusts from gluten-free bread and then use my food processor to crumb them coarsely for use in stuffing and then freeze the crumbs in airtight freezer bags for use as needed.

      Sausage Bread Stuffing
      Sweet and Savory Sausage Bread Stuffing

      [Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

      Sweet and Savory Sausage Bread Stuffing

       

      Ingredients:

      2-3 tbsp butter
      2 tbsp finely chopped onion
      2 tbsp finely chopped celery
      4 oz honey garlic or sundried tomato sausage, casing removed
      2 cups warm mashed potatoes (apx. 1 1/8 lb, uncooked)
      1½ tsp summer savory
      2 tsp liquid chicken bouillon
      ¼ cup dried cranberries, plumped in 2 tbsp warm rum or warm chicken stock (optional)
      2 tbsp finely chopped apple
      1 cup soft, coarse bread crumbs  (apx. – see note below)
      ¼ cup melted butter
      1 tbsp water
      1 tbsp pure maple syrup
      1 tbsp fresh parsley
      1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
      Salt and pepper, to taste

      Method:
       
      Melt butter in small frypan over medium heat.  Add the onion and celery. Briskly stir the vegetables for 2-3 minutes. Break apart the sausage meat and add to the onion and celery. Scramble fry the sausage meat until no longer pink, about 3-4 minutes.

      Place the warm mashed potatoes in a large bowl. Sprinkle with summer savory. Add the onion, celery, sausage, and chicken bouillon.  Mix.  Add the dried cranberries and chopped apple.

      Mix in the bread crumbs along with the melted butter, water, maple syrup, parsley, and chives.  Stir to combine.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

      Loosely fill the body cavity of turkey or chicken with the stuffing. Roast turkey/chicken according to package directions for stuffed poultry and use a food thermometer to ensure that both the poultry and the stuffing have reached the safe minimum temperature.

      Alternatively, make the stuffing into dressing by lightly pressing the mixture into one or two greased tinfoil-lined loaf pan(s). Cover with tin foil and bake in 350°F oven for apx. 15-20 minutes then remove tin foil and bake for 10-15 minutes longer, or until lightly browned on top. Let cool in pan(s) for at least 15 minutes then lift the tinfoil out of the loaf pan(s) and slice the dressing.

      NOTE:  Depending on how wet the variety of potatoes may be when cooked, additional bread crumbs may be needed to achieve the desired texture of the stuffing.
       
      Yield: Approximately 4-5 cups

      Sweet and Savory Sausage Bread Stuffing

      This moist sweet and savory sausage bread stuffing is made with sausage meat, bread crumbs, summer savory, apple, cranberries and maple syrup. The perfect side dish to roast chicken or turkey dinners.
      Course Side Dish
      Cuisine American
      Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

      Ingredients

      • 2-3 tbsp butter
      • 2 tbsp finely chopped onion
      • 2 tbsp finely chopped celery
      • 4 oz honey garlic or sundried tomato sausage casing removed
      • 2 cups warm mashed potatoes apx. 1 1/8 lb, uncooked
      • tsp summer savory
      • 2 tsp liquid chicken bouillon
      • ¼ cup dried cranberries plumped in 2 tbsp rum or warm chicken stock (optional)
      • 2 tbsp finely chopped apple
      • 1 cup soft coarse bread crumbs (apx. – see note below)
      • ¼ cup melted butter
      • 1 tbsp water
      • 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
      • 1 tbsp fresh parsley
      • 1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
      • Salt and pepper to taste

      Instructions

      1. Melt butter in small frypan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery. Briskly stir the vegetables for 2-3 minutes. Break apart the sausage meat and add to the onion and celery. Scramble fry the sausage meat until no longer pink, about 3-4 minutes.
      2. Place the warm mashed potatoes in a large bowl. Sprinkle with summer savory. Add the onion, celery, sausage, and chicken bouillon. Mix. Add the dried cranberries and chopped apple.
      3. Mix in the bread crumbs along with the melted butter, water, maple syrup, parsley, and chives. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
      4. Loosely fill the body cavity of turkey or chicken with the stuffing. Roast turkey/chicken according to package directions for stuffed poultry and use a food thermometer to ensure that both the poultry and the stuffing have reached the safe minimum temperature.
      5. Alternatively, make the stuffing into dressing by lightly pressing the mixture into one or two greased tinfoil-lined loaf pan(s). Cover with tin foil and bake in 350°F oven for apx. 15-20 minutes then remove tin foil and bake for 10-15 minutes longer, or until lightly browned on top. Let cool in pan(s) for at least 15 minutes then lift the tinfoil out of the loaf pan(s) and slice the dressing.

      Recipe Notes

      Yield: Approximately 4-5 cups

      NOTE 1: Depending on how wet the variety of potatoes may be when cooked, additional bread crumbs may be needed to achieve the desired texture of the stuffing.

      NOTE 2: To make this recipe gluten free, simply substitute gluten-free bread crumbs in the same amount called for in this recipe and ensure that all other ingredients called for are also gluten free, including the sausage and liquid chicken bouillon.

      For my basic poultry stuffing recipe, click here.

      Pin Me To Pinterest!

      Sausage Bread Stuffing
      Sausage Bread Stuffing