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How to Make Dill Pickles

Pickles
Dill Pickles

Dill pickles are one of the easiest pickles to make. Cold-packed into hot sterilized jars, this recipe transforms tiny 3” – 4” cucumbers into tangy pickles that, for any dill lover, are the quintessential pickles to accompany many sandwiches and burgers.

This recipe is sized with the smaller household in mind. Many don’t have large storage capacity for big batches of pickles such as our ancestors made and stored in their cold rooms or cellars. Yet other households are comprised of only one or two people so they don’t need large batches of pickles but still want to have a taste of homemade goodness that comes from home preserving.

Dill Pickles
Dill Pickles

Freshness Counts with Pickling Cucumbers!

As with any pickle recipe, freshness of ingredients is key. That means the cucumbers should, ideally, be processed the same day they are picked from the vine or, certainly, within 24 hours. Otherwise, the cucumbers start to lose their flavour and get soft and punky and, as we all know, dill pickles are meant to have crunch.

Use Pickling Vinegar

It is very important to use vinegar which is made especially for the pickling process. It will usually have 7% acidity, making it stronger than table vinegar. This helps to preserve the pickles longer. Most large grocery stores will stock this vinegar, especially around “pickling time” in late summer or fall. The container should state that it is “pickling vinegar”.

Pickling Vinegar

Use Pickling Salt, Not Table Salt, in Pickles

One of the biggest tips I have for pickling is to never use table salt in the pickling process. Always use proper pickling salt. This is a coarse salt specifically for pickling and it will be marked as such on the package label. Apart from it being way too salty for pickling, iodized table salt can cause some discoloration of the cucumbers and will likely form a cloudy brine. The brine should be bright and clear. Table salt, because of its fine texture is too easily absorbed into the cucumbers, resulting in overly salty pickles. I can always tell if someone has used table salt in making pickles just by simply looking at the bottles of pickles – the contents of those bottles just do not have an appetizing look to them.

Coarse/Pickling Salt

Preparing the Jars 

The jars should be examined to ensure they are free of cracks, chips, and nicks. They should then be washed, rinsed, and sterilized. I sterilize mine in a pot of boiling hot water on the stove. Use a jar lifter to place the jars, upright in the water, holding each one steady until it fills with water. Bring the water back to a boil, reduce the heat slightly to prevent boil-overs, and boil the jars gently for 10 minutes from this point. Turn the heat to simmer and leave the jars in the water until they are ready to be filled with the cucumbers. The jars must be kept hot because, once filled, they will be going into a hot water bath and cold jars meeting up with boiling water will crack.

Making the Brine

The process I use to make my dill pickles is quite simple. This involves making a simple brine of equal parts of pickling vinegar and water along with some pickling salt, a bit of sugar, and some pickling spices. To keep the brine clear, bundle the pickling spice into a double (or triple) layer of cheesecloth. Gather up this little sachet and tie with string. Once this brine has simmered for about 15 minutes, discard the spice sachet and bayleaf. The brine is then ready to be poured over the cucumbers.

Spice Sachet
Preparing the Spice Sachet
Pickling Spice Sachet
Pickling Spice Sachet

Preparing the Cucumbers and Filling the Jars

The small 3” – 4” dill-sized cucumbers can be left whole or they can be sliced in two (or even quartered) lengthwise or they can be sliced into “coins”. Just note that the pickles are likely to have more crunch if the cucumbers are left whole. Make sure to trim the blossom end of each cucumber by 1/8” – these blossom tips have enzymes that can lead to limp, punky pickles. Pricking each cucumber 3-4 times with the tines of a fork will help the vinegar brine penetrate the cucumbers better resulting in more flavorful pickles.

Dill Pickles
Dill Pickles

The point where you start to place ingredients into the jars is the point where it is necessary to work along quickly because the jars cannot be allowed to get cold before they go into the hot water bath. Ensuring all ingredients and pickling equipment are laid out before starting the process and following a set order will help this process move along quickly.  Further along in this posting, you will find an outline of the step-by-step sequence I follow to quickly get the jars filled while they are still hot and then into the hot water bath.

A slightly smashed garlic clove along with some mustard seed and a whole clove are first placed in the bottom of each jar. Where, in the jars, the small bunch of feathery dill fronds and the umbrella-shaped seed head of the dill plant are placed is a matter of personal preference. I like to place the dill fronds on one side of the jar and the seed head on the opposite side. These can, of course, be placed on the bottom of the jar or the feathery dill fronds on the bottom and the dill head on top of the cucumbers. The taste will be the same. However, if you like your jars to have a nice appearance that immediately signifies they are dill pickles, placing the fronds and dill head so they are visible will do the trick!

Ensure the cucumbers are tightly packed, compactly, into the jars but not so tight that they are squished. Once all the ingredients are placed in the jar, pour the hot brine into each jar, leaving ½” head space at the top of each jar.  A chopstick, or small non-metal spatula, is useful to remove any air bubbles that may appear and more of the brine may need to be added, as necessary, to bring it to about ½“ from the jar rim.

Add a Grape Leaf to Keep the Dills Crunchy

I add a grape leaf on top of the cucumbers in each jar. This is an old trick to keep the cucumbers crisp – the tannin-rich grape leaves have enzymes that help to keep the cucumbers crunchy. Some say, with the removal of the blossom ends of the cucumbers, it is not necessary to add the grape leaves to the jars but I have access to them so I add them and my dill pickles always turn out super crunchy.

Heat the Jar Lids and Metal Ring Bands

Always use brand new metal jar lids; never re-use them for pickling purposes as their seal is only meant for single use. Check the metal ring bands (which can be re-used multiple times) to ensure they have no dents or nicks in them and there is no rust. The jar lids are heated in hot simmering water, just until they are hot and the gaskets softened —  3 – 4 minutes should do it. Heating the lids too long or in rapidly boiling water will weaken the rubber on them causing them not to seal properly. Wipe each jar rim with a clean, damp cloth before applying the lids, rubber side down, to the jar tops. Tighten the metal ring bands, fingertip tight. At this point, the dills are ready, without delay, for their hot water bath.

Heating Jar Lids
Heating Jar Lids

The Hot Water Bath

Processing the jars of dills stabilizes the contents for longer shelf life. Make sure the hot water canner is ready to go with the boiling water in it by the time you fill the jars. Load the filled jars into the metal basket that comes with the canner. The jars should remain upright during the hot water bath process and they should not touch each other. Once the basket is lowered into the boiling water, ensure the water level is at least 1” above the jar tops. Add more boiling water, if necessary, to bring the water to this level.

I recommend following your canner manufacturer’s instructions for the canning process as the length of time the jars need to be processed will depend on the altitude of your locale. Here on PEI, I process my half-pint jars of dills for 10 minutes and I start the timing from the time the hot water returns to a full rolling boil after the basket of jars has been placed in the canner of hot water. Once the 10 minutes is up, remove the jars, one by one, with a jar lifter and place them on a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

Listen for the “pop” or “ping” sound as the bottles seal. Sometimes, this will take place almost immediately and sometimes it can take a few hours. The lids of properly sealed jars will curve downward. Let the jars rest, undisturbed, on the wire cooling rack for 12 hours. Then, let the sealed jars stand in a cool, dark place for 6 weeks before opening. This gives time for the dill flavour to develop fully.

Dill Pickles
Dill Pickles

The Sequence

To help organize your work to make these pickles, I offer the following suggested order for the sequence so that the steps happen when they should and the hot jars do not have a chance to cool before they are filled and placed in the hot water bath.

  1. Fill the hot water canner with hot tap water, place it on the stove, and start the heating process to get it to the boiling point. Starting with hot tap water will reduce the amount of time it takes to get the large canner of water to a boil. Make sure the water is at the boiling point before the wire basket of filled bottles is placed in the canner.
  2. Heat a pot of boiling water to sterilize the jars. Wash jars. Boil them gently for at least 10 minutes. Keep them, at simmer level, in the hot water until they are needed for filling.
  3. Wash and cut blossom ends from cucumbers and prick each with tines of a fork, 3-4 times.
  4. Gather spices for the jars and prepare garlic cloves.
  5. Start making the brine.
  6. Make a quick trip to the garden to pick the fresh dill heads and fronds.
  7. As the brine is nearing completion, remove the sterilized jars from the hot water and place the garlic, spices, dill fronds and dill head in each jar. Pack in the cucumbers.
  8. Heat lids in small pan of hot water. Boil extra water in case it is needed to top up hot water canner to 1” above jar tops.
  9. Pour brine over cucumbers, remove air bubbles with a chopstick (or small non-metal spatula), and top up with more brine, as necessary. Add the grape leaf to top of each jar. Wipe the jar rims with clean damp cloth.
  10. Place lids and metal ring bands on jars. Place jars in canner basket and lower into canner of hot water. Add any additional water necessary to bring water level to 1” above jar lids. Cover. Bring canner water back to full rolling boil. Start timing the canning time from this point.
  11. Have wire rack set out for bottles as they come out of the canner.

Note: The garlic clove is likely to turn a blue-green-gray color. Don’t be alarmed by this – it’s just the effect of the acid from the vinegar coming into contact with the garlic.

Dill Pickles
Dill Pickles
[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Dill Pickles

Ingredients:

2 lbs – 3” – 4” pickling cucumbers, freshly picked and washed

1 tbsp pickling salt
1¼ cups + 1 tbsp pickling vinegar
1¼ cups + 1 tbsp water
2 tbsp granulated sugar
½ tbsp pickling spice, gathered into double (or triple) layer of cheesecloth and tied into spice sachet
1 bay leaf

3 – 4 whole cloves
1 tsp mustard seed, divided equally among the jars
3 – 4 small garlic cloves, slightly smashed
Fresh dill heads, one per jar along with small bunches of feathery dill fronds
Grape leaves, medium-sized, 1 per jar

3 – 4 half-pint jars, lids, and metal ring bands (the number of jars needed will depend on the size of the cucumbers, whether they are sliced or left whole, and how compactly they are fit into the jars)
1 chopstick

Method:

Wash and trim 1/8“ from blossom end of each cucumber. Prick cucumbers 3-4 times with tines of a fork. Leave cucumbers whole or cut into two or four spears, lengthwise (or slice into “coins”). Fill the canner with hot tap water and heat to boiling point while making the brine. Begin sterilizing the jars in large pot of hot water to have them ready when brine is heated.

To make the brine, combine the pickling salt, vinegar, water, sugar, pickling spice sachet, and bay leaf in small stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Immediately reduce heat to low and cook brine, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring periodically. Remove from heat and discard pickling sachet and bay leaf.

Place 1 whole clove, ¼ to 1/3 teaspoon mustard seed (divide the teaspoon of seeds equally between number of jars used), and 1 small slightly smashed garlic clove in each hot, sterilized jar. Place a small bunch of feathery dill fronds along one side of the jar and one umbrella-shaped dill head on the opposite side of the jar. Fill the jars with the cucumbers, packing tightly (but not squashing them), and keeping the dill fronds and dill head in place against the sides of the jars.

Pour the hot brine into each jar, filling to within ½ inch from jar rim (head space). Use a chopstick (or small non-metal spatula) to remove any air bubbles that may have formed in the brine. Add more brine, if necessary, to bring it to ½“ from the jar rim. Add 1 grape leaf to top of each jar, pressing it below the surface of the brine, to keep cucumbers crisp. Wipe each jar rim with a clean, damp cloth. Seal the jars with heated lids. Screw on metal ring bands, fingertip tight.

Place jars in hot water bath basket, ensuring jars do not touch each other or fall over. Lower basket into canner of hot water. Ensure the water level is at least 1″ above the jar tops, adding more water as necessary. Cover with canner lid. Increase the heat to return the water to a rolling boil then decrease the heat to just keep the water at a rolling boil but not boiling over. Process half-pint jars in the hot water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting time for altitude. Start timing the processing from the point where a full rolling boil is reached after basket of jars has been added to the canner. Turn off heat and remove canner lid. Using a jar lifter, carefully remove the jars, one at a time, and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Listen for the “pop” or “ping” sound as the bottles seal over the next few minutes or hours. The lids of properly sealed jars will curve downward. Let jars rest, undisturbed, on wire rack for 12 hours. For maximum dill flavour, let sealed jars stand in cool, dark place for 6 weeks before opening.

Yield:  Approximately 3- 4 half-pint jars

Dill Pickles

These easy-to-make dill pickles combine dill, garlic, and pickling spices to transform tiny cucumbers into crunchy pickles that, with their tangy flavour, are a great accompaniment to many sandwiches and burgers.
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs – 3” - 4” pickling cucumbers, freshly picked and washed
  • 1 tbsp pickling salt
  • cups + 1 tbsp pickling vinegar
  • cups + 1 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • ½ tbsp pickling spice, gathered into double (or triple) layer of cheesecloth and tied into spice sachet
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 - 4 whole cloves
  • 1 tsp mustard seed, divided equally among the jars
  • 3 – 4 small garlic cloves, slightly smashed
  • Fresh dill heads, one per jar along with small feathery dill fronds
  • Grape leaves, medium-sized, 1 per jar
  • 3 – 4 half-pint jars lids, and metal ring bands (the number of jars needed will depend on the size of the cucumbers, whether they are sliced or left whole, and how compactly they are fit into the jars)
  • 1 chopstick (or small non-metal spatula)

Instructions

  1. Wash and trim 1/8“ from blossom end of each cucumber. Prick cucumbers 3-4 times with tines of a fork. Leave cucumbers whole or cut into two or four spears, lengthwise (or slice into “coins”). Fill the canner with hot tap water and heat to boiling point while making the brine. Begin sterilizing the jars in large pot of hot water to have them ready when brine is heated.
  2. To make the brine, combine the pickling salt, vinegar, water, sugar, pickling spice sachet, and bay leaf in small stockpot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Immediately reduce heat to low and cook brine, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring periodically. Remove from heat and discard pickling sachet and bay leaf.
  3. Place 1 whole clove, ¼ to 1/3 teaspoon mustard seed (divide teaspoon of mustard seed equally between number of jars used), and 1 small slightly smashed garlic clove in each hot, sterilized jar. Place a small bunch of feathery dill fronds along one side of the jar and one umbrella-shaped dill head on the opposite side of the jar. Fill the jars with the cucumbers, packing tightly (but not squashing them), and keeping the dill fronds and dill head in place against the sides of the jars.

  4. Pour the hot brine into each jar, filling to within ½ inch from jar rim (head space). Use a chopstick (or small non-metal spatula) to remove any air bubbles that may have formed in the brine. Add more brine, if necessary, to bring it to ½“ from the jar rim. Add 1 grape leaf to top of each jar, pressing it below the surface of the brine, to keep cucumbers crisp. Wipe each jar rim with a clean, damp cloth. Seal the jars with heated lids. Screw on metal ring bands, fingertip tight.

  5. Place jars in hot water bath basket, ensuring jars do not touch each other or fall over. Lower basket into canner of hot water. Ensure the water level is at least 1" above the jar tops, adding more water as necessary. Cover with canner lid. Increase the heat to return the water to a rolling boil then decrease the heat to just keep the water at a rolling boil but not boiling over. Process half-pint jars in the hot water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting time for altitude. Start timing the processing from the point where a full rolling boil is reached after basket of jars has been added to the canner. At the end of the processing time, turn off heat and remove canner lid. Using a jar lifter, carefully remove the jars, one at a time, and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Listen for the “pop” or “ping” sound as the bottles seal over the next few minutes or hours. The lids of properly sealed jars will curve downward. Let jars rest, undisturbed, on wire rack for 12 hours. For maximum dill flavour, let sealed jars stand in cool, dark place for 6 weeks before opening.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Approximately 3- 4 half-pint jars

Be sure to read blog posting that accompanies this recipe for more information on the procedure to make dill pickles.

For other great pickle, relish, and chow recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

Mustard Pickles
Bread and Butter Pickles
Pickled Beets
Mustard Beans
Green Tomato Chow
Rhubarb Relish

Pin Me To Pinterest!

Dill Pickles
Dill Pickles

Sensational Strawberry Lemonade Recipe

Lemonade
Strawberry Lemonade

One of the wonderful things about lemonade is that it can be served simply as is or it can be flavoured with fruits in season such as I am doing today by making strawberry lemonade. How fabulous is that natural red color in the lemonade!

Lemonade
Strawberry Lemonade

This strawberry lemonade is great on a scorching hot day when you need to stay hydrated and crave a thirst-quenching drink.  The lemonade starts with the making of a simple syrup of water and sugar.  This gives the drink that lovely silky smooth texture which could not be gotten by simply combining sugar with cold water – no matter how much you stir it, sugar and cold water will never fully mix and you will be left with a grainy texture drink.  By boiling the sugar and water to make the syrup, you are sure the sugar is fully dissolved.  I find using super-fine sugar (which you may know as caster sugar, instant dissolving sugar, or berry sugar) is the best to use to make simple syrup although regular granulated sugar may also be used. Typically, a simple syrup for drinks is made with a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water.  However, I find that that is too much sugar for my taste in this lemonade so I use 1 cup of the superfine sugar to 1 1/2 cups water.

For this recipe, purée the strawberries, add some water to them along with freshly squeezed lemon juice and the simple syrup.  In order to get rid of the hundreds of little tiny strawberry seeds and to have a clear drink, the mixture will need to be strained through a very fine wire mesh sieve.  You’ll be amazed at how many seeds strawberries have!

Lemonade
Strawberry Lemonade over Ice

This is a delightful summertime drink served over ice and it has an absolutely fabulously rich colour that is all natural thanks to the ruby red strawberries.  To add a bit of fizz to the drink, mix half a glass with the lemonade and half with your favorite clear soda (lemon-lime is especially good). Add ice and garnish with a fresh strawberry and/or lemon wedge or wheel.

Lemonade
Strawberry Lemonade

This is often a drink I make to take along on picnic outings. It’s handy to have frozen because, as it thaws on the way to the picnic location, it also helps to keep the food cold.

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Strawberry Lemonade

Ingredients:

1½ cup water
1 cup super-fine sugar (aka caster sugar or instant dissolving sugar)

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp coarsely grated lemon rind

3 cups strawberries, sliced
2 cups water
Pinch salt

Method:

For the simple syrup:  In small saucepan, combine the 1 1/2 water and 1 cup sugar together.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved.  Reduce heat to medium-low and boil gently for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature (apx. 30-40 minutes). Add the lemon juice and lemon rind. Let mixture stand for at least an hour (or up to three hours) to allow the flavors to blend.  Strain mixture twice through a fine mesh sieve to remove the lemon pulp and rind.  Discard the pulp and rind.

For the strawberry purée:  Place strawberries in large blender.  Purée until smooth.  Slowly add in the 2 cups of water, continuing to pulse/purée until mixture is smooth.  Slowly add the strained simple syrup with lemon juice and a pinch of salt.  Purée until all ingredients are well combined.  Strain mixture through very fine wire mesh sieve to remove the strawberry seeds.

To assemble:  Transfer lemonade to a large jug or bottle.  Chill.

To serve:  Stir the chilled lemonade. Fill a tall glass approximately one-half full of ice cubes and add the lemonade.  Garnish with a fresh strawberry or lemon wheel, if desired.  Another serving suggestion includes filling a glass half full of strawberry lemonade and topping with clear soda such as lemon-lime.

Lemonade will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Freezes well.

Yield:  Approximately 6½ – 7 cups

Strawberry Lemonade

This “summer in a bottle” lemonade makes the most of fresh in-season strawberries and is a colorful, refreshing, and thirst-quenching summertime sipper when served over ice.
Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Keyword Lemonade
Servings 8
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • cup water
  • 1 cup super-fine sugar (aka caster sugar or instant dissolving sugar)
  • 1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp coarsely grated lemon rind
  • 3 cups strawberries, sliced
  • 2 cups water
  • Pinch salt

Instructions

  1. For the simple syrup: In small saucepan, combine the 1½ water and 1 cup sugar together. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce heat to medium-low and boil gently for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature (apx. 30-40 minutes). Add the lemon juice and lemon rind. Let mixture stand for at least an hour (or up to three hours) to allow the flavors to blend. Strain mixture twice through a fine mesh sieve to remove the lemon pulp and rind. Discard the pulp and rind.
  2. For the strawberry purée: Place strawberries in large blender. Purée until smooth. Slowly add in the 2 cups of water, continuing to pulse/purée until mixture is smooth. Slowly add the strained simple syrup with lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Purée until all ingredients are well combined. Strain mixture through very fine wire mesh sieve to remove the strawberry seeds.
  3. To assemble: Transfer lemonade to a large jug or bottle. Chill.
  4. To serve: Stir the chilled lemonade. Fill a tall glass approximately one-half full of ice cubes and add the lemonade. Garnish with a fresh strawberry or lemon wheel, if desired. Another serving suggestion includes filling a glass half full of strawberry lemonade and topping with clear soda such as lemon-lime.
  5. Lemonade will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Freezes well. Yields approximately 6 1/2 - 7 cups lemonade.

 

For other great Lemonade recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the following links:

Lemonade
Blueberry Lemonade
Rhubarb Lemonade

Pin Me To Pinterest!

Lemonade
Strawberry Lemonade

Feasting at The Table in New London, PEI

  At The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
At The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

One of the things most of us enjoy about travel is the opportunity to sample foods local to a region.  It’s part of the charm of a place and makes for great vacation memories.  At one time, vacationers went to a destination, did some sightseeing, took in some typical tourist attractions (amusement parks, museums, beaches, etc.), and ate at whatever restaurant they happened upon at meal time. Today’s travelers, generally speaking, are more interested in diversified travel experiences than they are simply going to a place so they can check it off their bucket list of places they have been.  Many seek out adventures that allow them to participate in activities, experience the uniqueness and authenticity of a place, mingle with the locals, and learn more about local foods and ways to prepare them.

Grilled PEI Oysters Topped With A Black Garlic Cream Sauce and Bacon Jam (at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI)
Grilled PEI Oysters Topped With A Black Garlic Cream Sauce and Bacon Jam (at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI)

One of the best ways to learn about a place and its culture is through its local food.  In fact, many travelers choose destinations based on the local food scene, food festivals and events, unique dining experiences, and opportunities to participate in culinary classes. Many, therefore, seek out experiences that allow them to connect more fully with a region and what better way to do that than through food, especially if it is experiential cuisine where you learn something about the foods you are eating.

The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

I was recently a guest at the North Shore Surf and Turf Dinner at The Table Culinary Studio which hosts themed communal-style dinners featuring Prince Edward Island foods throughout the summer months.  Today, I am going to share my dining experience at The Table with you.

The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

The Table Culinary Studio is the successor of Annie’s Table Culinary Studio which was started by Annie Leroux in 2012.  You can click here for my story on Annie’s Table Culinary Studio.  Current owner, Derrick Hoare (himself a trained chef), had been a long-time summer resident on PEI for many years, was retiring from his career in the health care profession, and was looking for his next adventure.  He contemplated buying a traditional restaurant in PEI but decided that was not his style.  When Annie’s Table became available for sale, Derrick liked the concept Annie had begun so he bought the business which he began operating in 2016. In addition to keeping the tradition of offering short culinary courses, he added themed evening dining to the menu and renamed the business to The Table Culinary Studio.

Derrick Hoare, Owner/Chef at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Derrick Hoare, Owner/Chef at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

Set in the small rural community of New London, not far from the resort municipality of Cavendish (the hometown of the fictional Anne of Green Gables – you may have heard of her!), you will find The Table on Route 8 or, as the locals would simply say, the Grahams Road.

At The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
At The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

With a backdrop of green fertile rolling countryside, The Table is located in a repurposed former United Church that is tastefully furnished with quality antiques.  Several of the elements of the decommissioned church have been incorporated into the décor, including the pulpit that now occupies a prominent position overlooking the dining hall.

Interior of the re-purposed country church that is now The Table Culinary Studio
Interior of the Re-purposed Country Church that is now The Table Culinary Studio

The entire venue is open concept so diners can watch the culinary team prepare the meal.  This unique dining experience will make you feel like you are more at an intimate dinner party with a private chef catering than at a restaurant.

At The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
At The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

Open seasonally, seven nights a week, for themed dinners that feature local Island foods that come from the land and the sea, The Table can accommodate up to 18 guests an evening, one seating only.  Tickets for the dinner must be reserved in advance  (by phone or email) and the menu for each evening is a set menu – you eat whatever is being prepared that night which takes the pressure off of studying a menu and trying to decide what to have. Drinks are at extra cost and are payable at the end of the evening along with the dinner.

The themed dinners range from the Traditional Island Feast to the Island Dinner Party to Isle and Fire to the North Shore Surf and Turf and all focus on fresh local foods harvested or fished nearby. Seating is at one long harvest table in the middle of the old church and food is served family style which is to say that the main meal, on large platters, arrives at the table and guests pass the platters around, serving themselves.  There are no individual tables.

At the Surf and Turf Dinner at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
At the Surf and Turf Dinner at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

It seems only fitting that communal dining would be the style of dining at The Table given that it is in a decommissioned church.  Communal dining dates back to biblical times – you know, the breaking of bread together.  The concept of individual tables for dining did not start until a long time after these origins.  Some may find it requires some stepping out of the comfort zone to attend a dinner with strangers all seated at the same table but, when you think about it, church and community potluck dinners have been around for ages and they are traditionally served at long communal tables where you don’t necessarily know the people seated around you.  We do a lot of cruising and have never requested a table for two in the ship’s dining room simply because we like to meet new people and inject some new conversation into meal times when traveling. So, sitting down to a meal alongside people I have not met before is quite comfortable and familiar for me. After all, the chances are that they are all food enthusiasts, too!

One of the lovely parts of this type of experiential dining is that you get to interact with those preparing the meal.  In contrast, if you go into a traditional style restaurant, you are seated, have limited contact with the wait staff, and most likely never see the chefs let alone have any direct contact with them.  At The Table, there are lots of opportunities to communicate directly with the owner/chef Derrick, executive chef Michael Bradley, oyster shucker George Dowdle, and The Table’s event planner, Christine Morgan. Together, this is the culinary team at The Table.

Chef Michael Smith, Executive Chef at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Executive Chef Michael Smith at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

The Table benefits from having a talented and enthusiastic young chef. With over ten years of experience in professional kitchens, Chef Michael Bradley is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown.  Chef Michael has been at The Table from the beginning, starting as an intern and working his way up to become the executive chef.

Outdoor Reception at the Surf and Turf Dinner at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Outdoor Reception at the Surf and Turf Dinner at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

I truly felt like I was at someone’s private dinner party.  It was a perfect sunny summer evening as guests arrived for the event which started on the side lawn of the church.  When I arrived, local aquaculturalist, George Dowdle, was busy shucking oysters that he had fished from the nearby Southwest River only hours before the dinner.

Aquaculturalist, George Dowdle, Shucking Oysters at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Aquaculturalist, George Dowdle, Shucking Oysters at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

Guests soon became preoccupied with consuming the fresh raw oysters which were served with a choice of three sauces:  Asian Thai, Lemon Herb, and Pomegranate Herb.  It wasn’t long before everyone felt comfortable and at home with each other as the conversations quickly turned to discussions about the food.

Freshly shucked oysters at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Freshly Shucked Oysters at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
PEI Oysters on the Grill at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
PEI Oysters on the Grill at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

Not quite into slurping raw oysters? Chef Michael also has a unique way of serving grilled oysters. He first puts the oysters on the open fire grill to warm them up, then shucks them and tops them with a black garlic cream sauce and bacon jam, then puts them back on the grill to re-heat them.  Simply sublime!

PEI Oysters hot off the grill and served with black garlic cream sauce and bacon jam
PEI Oysters Hot off the Grill and Served with Black Garlic Cream Sauce and Bacon Jam

While clams sometimes take a back seat in popularity to mussels and oysters, The Table includes them as part of the meal.

PEI Clams (at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI)
PEI Clams (at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI)

When we had our fill of oysters, out came the cheese and charcuterie trays.

Cheese Tray at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Cheese Tray at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

On this evening, The Table served their own homemade black garlic crackers alongside an assortment of cheeses from Ferme Isle St Jean in Rustico and Glasgow Glen Farm in New Glasgow. This was rounded out by pickled beets, pickled carrots, pickled spruce tips, and rhubarb chutney (all made in-house at The Table).

Condiments on the Charcuterie Tray at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Condiments on the Charcuterie Tray at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

While guests were busy noshing on the appetizers, Chef Michael was preparing the sirloin tip roast with a black garlic espresso rub. Cooked over an open fire, you can only imagine how tantalizing the scent was!

Executive Chef, Michael Bradley preps the grill for the sirloin tip beef
Executive Chef, Michael Bradley Preps the Grill for the Sirloin Tip Roast
Grilling the Sirloin Tip Beef Over an Open Fire at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Grilling the Sirloin Tip Beef Over an Open Fire at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

Then, Chef Michael demonstrated how they cook the mussels in a fire pit with seaweed and smoke.

Executive Chef at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI, Prepares the Cooking Pit to Cook the Mussels
Executive Chef at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI, Prepares the Cooking Pit to Cook the Mussels

The mussels are placed in wet pillowcases which give the moisture the mussels need to open.

Placing bags of Mussels in the Fire Pit at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Placing Bags of Mussels in the Fire Pit at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Covering bags of PEI Mussels with Seaweed for Cooking in the Fire Pit at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Covering Bags of PEI Mussels with Seaweed for Cooking in the Fire Pit at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Fire Pit for Cooking Mussels at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Fire Pit for Cooking Mussels at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Fire Pit for Cooking Mussels at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Fire Pit for Cooking Mussels at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

Guests leisurely made their way inside the church where the meal was served.  The big 12-foot long handmade harvest table occupies much of the space that once would have been filled with church pews.

The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

By this time, guests were very comfortable in the company of each other and, since there were three Islanders present, the conversation soon turned to various aspects of how local foods are produced and farming and fishing, in general.  Food is such a commonality and ice breaker!

Communal Dining at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Communal Dining at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

The meal began with a plated salad highlighted by the skirt steak from Atlantic Beef Products in Albany. The steak had been marinated in an onion garlic marinade.

Salad with skirt steak at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Salad with Skirt Steak at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

The boards of housemade sourdough bread were served with a black garlic spread as well as honey butter.

Bread Board at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Bread Board at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

Before each course was presented, Chef Michael came tableside to explain what the course consisted of and how it was prepared.

Executive Chef, Michael Bradley, at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Executive Chef, Michael Bradley, at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

Next came huge platters of bountiful mixed seasonal vegetables with the fire-grilled sirloin tip roast.

Platters of Vegetables and Sirloin Tip Roast at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Platters of Vegetables and Sirloin Tip Roast at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

The veggies (along with the salad greens) came from nearby Alexander Fresh Vegetables in Hope River. These were very attractively presented platters.

Platter of Vegetables and Sirloin Tip Roast at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Platter of Vegetables and Sirloin Tip Roast at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

Then, the seafood platters arrived.  All those mussels that had been cooking in the fire pit emerged from the pillowcases and formed the base for lobster claws and tails.

Lobsters and Mussels at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Lobsters and Mussels at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

The lobster, fished from boats out of nearby French River Harbour, had been par-cooked with a garlic butter and then was finished on the grill outside.

French River Harbour, PEI
French River Harbour, PEI

The green sauce accompanying the mussels was a garden pesto cream sauce.

Lobster and Mussels at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI
Lobster and Mussels at The Table Culinary Studio, New London, PEI

By this time, I was stuffed and thought I would just roll home but, wait, dessert was to come!  Dessert was a blood orange infused carrot cake with orange cream cheese icing. I didn’t get a photo of it because I was too busy enjoying the gluten-free option that was a deconstructed strawberry pie made with a strawberry balsamic reduction and gluten-free pastry lattice, all topped with lactose-free ice cream.

Gluten-Free Dessert at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI.
Gluten-Free Dessert at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI.

The Table prides itself on using the best of what is fresh and local.  Most foods for their themed dinners come from under 10 km away and are farmed and fished by friends and neighbours. So, you know that when you dine at The Table, food will not have traveled thousands of miles before it has reached your plate. In fact, you can seek out the same food suppliers to purchase high quality local PEI products.

I asked Christine if they ever get families for their dinners.  She tells me, although 90% of their clientele are adults, parents are welcome to bring their children and they do often have families in attendance.  Patrons should note, however, that there is no children’s menu offered so the wee folk eat the same food as the adults.

What I have described above is the meal for the Surf and Turf dinner.  I inquired if the meal ingredients are identical for this particular dinner every night.  Christine informs me that the appetizers, vegetables, and dessert do vary by what is seasonally available.  So, if you are having the Surf and Turf dinner at The Table after having read this post, you’ll be aware that the meal ingredients may not be 100% identical to what I enjoyed in early July.

So, if you want to really immerse yourself in local PEI foods and have a totally relaxing evening in the beautiful countryside of Prince Edward Island while feasting on carefully prepared dishes in a unique setting, you should check out The Table Culinary Studio. If you have dietary restrictions, be sure to advise of that when making your reservation and, to the extent possible, the culinary team at The Table will do all they can to accommodate special dietary needs.

For more information on dining options at The Table, and to make reservations, check out their website at http://www.thetablepei.ca/dining .

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Dinner at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Dinner at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Dinner at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI
Dinner at The Table Culinary Studio in New London, PEI

My thanks to The Table Culinary Studio for the opportunity to experience their North Shore Surf and Turf Dinner and for the fine hospitality. My dinner at the The Table Culinary Studio was complimentary for the purpose of conducting a review of the North Shore Surf and Turf dinner. However, this in no way influenced my opinions of the dinner experience. All opinions expressed in this review are purely my own.

Rhubarb Lemonade

 

Rhubarb Lemonade
Rhubarb Lemonade

Lemonade is one of the most common of summer drinks.  Served cold, it’s very refreshing on a hot summer’s day.  Sometimes, I like to flavour my lemonades as I am doing today with rhubarb in the form of rhubarb lemonade.

Rhubarb
Rhubarb Patch

We have a good-sized patch of rhubarb so I make good use of it in many ways.  I will often cook up some excess rhubarb near the end of rhubarb season, strain it, and freeze the juice for later use or, sometimes, I will make up an entire batch or two of rhubarb lemonade and freeze that to have at the ready for sipping on those sweltering hot summer days.

Lemonade
Rhubarb Lemonade

To make the rhubarb lemonade, I start with making a simple syrup of super-fine sugar (which you may know as caster sugar or instant-dissolving sugar) and water.  The typical ratio for simple syrup is traditionally 1:1 sugar to water.  However, with the super-fine sugar, I find that ratio is a bit too sweet so I back up the sugar content to 3/4 cup.  Using the super-fine sugar (as opposed to granulated sugar) results in a lovely, silky smooth syrup.  If I was to simply try and mix sugar with cold water, it would not dissolve properly and would leave a gritty, unpleasant texture to the drink.  In a previous post for Blueberry Lemonade, I give more details on this process and you can access that post by clicking here.

Once the simple syrup has cooled to room temperature, simply add the freshly-squeezed lemon juice and some lemon rind to the syrup and let it sit a bit for the flavour to develop, then strain it through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lemon pulp, seeds, and the rind.

To make the rhubarb juice, cook rhubarb with water until the rhubarb is super soft and mushy.  This will take about 8-10 minutes of cooking.  It’s always hard to judge exactly how much rhubarb will be needed to generate the 4 cups of juice needed for this rhubarb lemonade but, generally speaking, 3 pounds of rhubarb and 3 cups of water should yield the 4 cups of juice.  If it falls short by  one-half cup or less, simply add up to one-half cup of water.  If it is more than a half cup short, you will need to cook some more rhubarb in order to keep the rhubarb flavour sufficiently strong enough.  Rhubarb juiciness varies depending on the variety and growing conditions, as well as its age, so that’s why it’s not an exact science as to exactly how much rhubarb to cook. Also, if the rhubarb is cooked too fast, too much water will evaporate and it will result in less juice.

To extract the juice from the cooked rhubarb, fit a fine mesh sieve with 3-4 layers of cheesecloth and place over a deep heat-proof bowl.  Transfer the rhubarb to the sieve and let the juice drip through on its own.  Near the end of the dripping, if the amount does not quite equal 4 cups, you may gently – very gently- press the back of a large spoon against the rhubarb mash to squeeze a bit more juice.  Don’t press the mash too hard because some impurities from the mash will slip through the loose weave cheesecloth and the lemonade will not be clear.

The color in the rhubarb lemonade photos is natural.  There is no food coloring used.

Rhubarb Juice
Rhubarb Juice

The glorious deep coral-red color comes from using the extracted juice from bright red rhubarb stalks so use the deepest red stalks you can find.

Rhubarb Stalks
Rhubarb Stalks

To make the lemonade, simply combine the strained lemon syrup with the rhubarb juice. Mix and chill then serve over ice in pretty glasses.

Rhubarb Lemonade
Rhubarb Lemonade

This lemonade freezes well but it can be kept, covered, in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. If you wish, you can also add some clear soda, such as grapefruit and lemon, to this lemonade for a fizzy drink. This rhubarb lemonade is a great crowd pleaser and is a lovely addition to summer picnics and gatherings.

Rhubarb Lemonade
Rhubarb Lemonade

 

 [Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Rhubarb Lemonade

Ingredients:

1 cup water
¾ cup super-fine sugar (aka caster sugar or instant dissolving sugar)

¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 – 2 tbsp coarsely grated lemon rind

3 lbs rhubarb, chopped into 1” chunks
3 cups water

Method:

For the simple syrup:  In small saucepan, combine the water and sugar together.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is completely dissolved.  Reduce heat to medium-low and boil gently for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature (apx. 30-40 minutes). Add the lemon juice and lemon rind. Let mixture stand for at least an hour (or up to three hours) to allow the flavors to blend.  Strain mixture twice through a fine mesh sieve to remove the lemon pulp and rind.  Discard the pulp and rind.

For the rhubarb juice:  Combine the rhubarb and water in a large pot.  Cover and bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and cook for approximately 8-10 minutes, or until rhubarb is completely  softened.  Place a large sieve over a big heatproof bowl.  Line the sieve with 3-4 layers of cheesecloth.  Remove the rhubarb from the heat and pour into the sieve, letting the juice drip through.  It may be necessary to use the back of a large spoon to very gently press the rhubarb pulp in order to extract all the juice out of the rhubarb.  This should yield about 4 cups, depending on the age and juiciness of the rhubarb.  If it is slightly less than 4 cups, up to ½ cup water may be added to bring the amount to 4 cups.

To assemble:  In large jug or bottle, combine 4 cups rhubarb juice with the simple syrup and lemon juice mixture. Stir well.  Chill.

To serve:  Stir the chilled lemonade. Fill a glass approximately one-half full of ice cubes and add the lemonade.  Garnish with a lemon wheel, if desired.

Will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Freezes well.

Yield:  Approximately 6 cups

Rhubarb Lemonade

With a perfect blend of sweet and tart notes, rhubarb and lemon combine to form Rhubarb Lemonade, a refreshing and thirst-quenching summertime sipper.
Course Drinks
Cuisine American
Servings 6
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup water
  • ¾ cup super-fine sugar aka caster sugar or instant dissolving sugar
  • ¾ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 – 2 tbsp coarsely grated lemon rind
  • 3 lbs rhubarb chopped into 1” chunks
  • 3 cups water

Instructions

For the simple syrup: In small saucepan, combine the water and sugar together. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is completely dissolved. Reduce heat to medium-low and boil gently for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature (apx. 30-40 minutes). Add the lemon juice and lemon rind. Let mixture stand for at least an hour (or up to three hours) to allow the flavors to blend. Strain mixture twice through a fine mesh sieve to remove the lemon pulp and rind. Discard the pulp and rind.

For the rhubarb juice: Combine the rhubarb and water in a large pot. Cover and bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low and cook for approximately 8-10 minutes, or until rhubarb is completely softened. Place a large sieve over a big heatproof bowl. Line the sieve with 3-4 layers of cheesecloth. Remove the rhubarb from the heat and pour into the sieve, letting the juice drip through. It may be necessary to use the back of a large spoon to very gently press the rhubarb pulp in order to extract all the juice out of the rhubarb. This should yield about 4 cups, depending on the age and juiciness of the rhubarb. If it is slightly less than 4 cups, up to ½ cup water may be added to bring the amount to 4 cups.

To assemble: In large jug or bottle, combine 4 cups rhubarb juice with the simple syrup and lemon juice mixture. Stir well. Chill.

To serve: Stir the chilled lemonade. Fill a glass approximately one-half full of ice cubes and add the lemonade. Garnish with a lemon wheel, if desired.

Recipe Notes

Will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Freezes well.

 

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

Lemonade
Blueberry Lemonade

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Rhubarb Lemonade

Rhubarb Lemonade

Old-fashioned Rhubarb Pudding Cake

Rhubarb Pudding Cake
Old-fashioned Rhubarb Pudding Cake

Today, I am sharing my recipe for a real old-fashioned type of dessert – Rhubarb Pudding Cake. The cake is “self-saucing” which means that the delectable sauce forms underneath the simple cake batter as the cake bakes. It’s an “all-in-one” pudding and cake! It may not be the most extravagant looking dessert but it sure is mighty tasty! If you are a rhubarb lover, you will love this dessert.

Pudding Cake
Old-fashioned Rhubarb Pudding Cake

This pudding is easy to make and can be made with either fresh or frozen rhubarb.  In fact, I often freeze the amount of rhubarb needed for the pudding in ziploc freezer bags labeled “For Rhubarb Pudding Cake” and it’s a real treat in the middle of winter! This is an old, old family favorite of ours! For those on a gluten-free diet, this pudding is easy to make gluten free – simply replace the quantity of flour called for in the recipe with an equivalent amount of 1-to-1 gluten-free flour.  In fact, the photos in this post are of the gluten-free version of this pudding cake.

Rhubarb Pudding Cake
Rhubarb Pudding Cake

Rhubarb chunks are spread in the bottom of the baking dish then covered with a simple cake batter that is lightly spiced and then topped with a sauce made with either orange or pineapple juice. The juice trickles down through the batter and meets up with the rhubarb and the two form a heck of a tasty sauce. As the pudding bakes, a soft golden crust forms on top of the cake.  Lots of texture happening in this pudding cake!

Pudding Cake
Rhubarb Pudding Cake

This pudding cake is best served after it has been allowed to stand for 15-20 minutes after it has baked and been removed from the oven.  I sometimes serve it plain and, other times, I’ll add either a dollop of whipped cream, or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Old-fashioned Rhubarb Pudding Cake
Rhubarb Pudding Cake
[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Rhubarb Pudding Cake

Ingredients:

2¾ cups rhubarb, cut into ¾“ chunks
3 tbsp butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar

¾ cup all-purpose flour (or, to make it gluten free, use equivalent amount of 1-to-1 gluten-free flour)
1 1/8 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
smidgeon cloves

½ cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

½ cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1¼ tsp finely grated orange rind
½ cup hot orange or pineapple juice
¼ tsp almond flavouring

Method:

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 8” square baking dish.  Arrange rhubarb evenly in dish.  Set aside.

In medium-sized bowl, cream the butter using either a hand mixer or stand mixer.  Slowly add the first amount of sugar and beat at medium speed until butter and sugar are well blended.

In separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

In measuring cup, mix the milk and vanilla together. Add the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture alternately with the wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients (three additions of dry and two additions of wet ingredients). Spread this mixture evenly over the rhubarb in the baking dish.

In measuring cup, whisk the remaining ½ cup of sugar and cornstarch together.  Mix in the grated orange rind.  Whisk in the hot orange or pineapple juice and the almond flavouring.  Pour this mixture over the batter in the baking dish.

Bake pudding for 45-50 minutes or until topping is tanned, a crust forms, and rhubarb is bubbling at the edges of the baking dish.  Let pudding stand for 15-20 minutes then spoon into dessert dishes or cut into squares.  Serve plain, top with a dollop of whipped cream, or a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream.

Yield:  6-8 servings

Rhubarb Pudding Cake

This easy-to-make dessert features rhubarb with an orange or pineapple-flavoured sauce that forms underneath a gently spiced cake layer as it bakes. True comfort food!
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 6

Ingredients

  • cups rhubarb cut into ¾“ chunks
  • 3 tbsp butter softened at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour or, to make it gluten free, use equivalent amount of 1-to-1 gluten-free flour
  • 1 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • smidgeon cloves
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • tsp finely grated orange rind
  • ½ cup hot orange or pineapple juice
  • ¼ tsp almond flavouring

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease 8” square baking dish. Arrange rhubarb evenly in dish. Set aside.
  2. In medium-sized bowl, cream the butter using either a hand mixer or stand mixer. Slowly add the first amount of sugar and beat at medium speed until butter and sugar are well blended.
  3. In separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
  4. In measuring cup, mix the milk and vanilla together. Add the dry ingredients to the butter-sugar mixture alternately with the wet ingredients, starting and ending with the dry ingredients (three additions of dry and two additions of wet ingredients). Spread this mixture evenly over the rhubarb in the baking dish.
  5. In measuring cup, whisk the remaining ½ cup of sugar and cornstarch together. Mix in the grated orange rind. Whisk in the hot orange or pineapple juice and the almond flavouring. Pour this mixture over the batter in the baking dish.
  6. Bake pudding for 45-50 minutes or until topping is tanned, a crust forms, and rhubarb is bubbling at the edges of the baking dish. Let pudding stand for 15-20 minutes then spoon into dessert dishes or cut into squares. Serve plain, top with a dollop of whipped cream, or a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream.

 

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Pudding Cake
Rhubarb Pudding Cake
Pudding Cake
Rhubarb Pudding Cake

Deli-style Gluten-Free Rhubarb Granola Muffins

I love the produce our garden generates and its earliest treat is rhubarb.  It is so versatile and I make lots of recipes using rhubarb.  Today, a treat for my gluten-free diet followers — a new recipe for deli-style gluten-free Rhubarb Granola Muffins.

Deli-style Gluten-free Rhubarb Granola Muffins
Deli-style Gluten-free Rhubarb Granola Muffins

There are many recipes for rhubarb muffins but many of them call for chopped rhubarb.  Rhubarb has a lot of water content and cooks fast when used in chopped form in baking goods. This extra water content can cause some baked goods to turn out soggy, particularly in the areas where the rhubarb chunks land.  To combat this problem, for this recipe, I cook the rhubarb then mash, or purée, it with a hand-held immersion blender. I then use the mashed/puréed rhubarb as part of the liquid content in the muffin batter.  So, I still get rhubarb muffins but without the wet soggy spots.

When I make muffins, I like them to be deli- or café-style which is to say I’m looking for muffins that are a reasonable size, are hearty,  have a lovely texture with a coarse crumb (not cake-like), and are filled with flavour.

Deli-style Gluten-free Rhubarb Granola Muffins
Deli-style Gluten-free Rhubarb Granola Muffins

Muffins are, for lack of a better way of putting it, little individual quick breads. We all know that, appearance-wise, the perfect muffin should bear a slightly domed top that has a bit of firmness to it.  There are a combination of factors that will contribute to that desired result — the right amount of leavening, the consistency of the batter, and the oven temperature.

Deli-style Gluten-free Rhubarb Granola Muffins
Deli-style Gluten-free Rhubarb Granola Muffins

Rhubarb is, by nature, tart.  However, it is important not to over-do the sugar content in the muffins because too much sugar will create a cake-like texture and the moist, open tender crumb, which is a hallmark feature of muffins, will be lost and you will end up with a product that more closely resembles a cupcake. A batter that is too runny will pose the risk of muffins that will rise to form stiff mountain peaks.  Adding some Greek yogurt to the batter is one way to thicken it up and reduce this risk.  Of course, the addition of the right proportions of leavening (baking powder and baking soda) are key.  Having the muffins go into a really hot oven to start them baking is also key to getting a lovely gentle dome on the muffin tops. Using the high temperature allows the outside of the muffin to quickly set while still allowing the inside to continue to rise.

Since I have been developing gluten-free muffins, one thing I have discovered is that I end up with better quality, deli-style muffins when I use a blend of gluten-free flours versus, say, one all-purpose flour or only the one-to-one gluten free flour.  Each gluten-free flour has its own unique qualities and properties and the right blend will provide structure, texture, and flavour to the muffins. The addition of granola to these muffins adds texture, flavour, and bulk to the muffins, making them more hearty and filling.

Deli-style Gluten-free Rhubarb Granola Muffins
Deli-style Gluten-free Rhubarb Granola Muffins

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Gluten Free Rhubarb Granola Muffins

Ingredients:

3½ oz rhubarb, chopped into ½ inch pieces
1½ tbsp orange juice

1 cup one-to-one gluten-free flour
2 tbsp potato starch
¼ cup gluten-free oat flour
¼ cup almond flour
¼ cup coconut flour
¾ tsp zanthan gum
¼ cup gluten-free quick oats
5½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1½ tbsp ground chia seeds
1¾ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
½ tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp ginger
¼ tsp allspice
2 tsp finely grated orange rind
2/3 cup granola

2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
2 extra-large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
¼ cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
1½ tsp vanilla
1½ tbsp orange juice
½ cup whole milk
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1/3 cup cooled rhubarb purée
2 tbsp Greek style coconut yogurt or sour cream
1½ tsp rose water (optional)

Method:

In small sauce pan, combine the rhubarb and orange juice.  Cook over medium-low heat until rhubarb is softened.  Cool slightly then, using the back of a large spoon, mash up the rhubarb or, alternatively, use a handheld immersion blender to purée the rhubarb.  Set aside to cool completely.

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Prepare 12 muffin cups (each ½-cup capacity) by spraying each muffin cup with cooking spray or greasing individually.

Combine flours, zanthan gum, quick oats, baking powder, soda, salt, ground chia seeds, spices, and grated orange rind together in a large bowl.  Whisk ingredients well to combine. Stir in granola. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Set aside.

In separate medium-sized bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the brown sugar, eggs, coconut oil, vanilla, orange juice, milk, maple syrup, Greek yogurt or sour cream, and rose water (if using). Whisk ingredients well. Stir in cooled rhubarb purée.

Pour wet ingredients into well in dry ingredients.  With large spoon, mix ingredients together just until dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Do not overmix.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling almost to the rim of each cup.  Transfer to pre-heated oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 400°F.  Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until muffins are just firm to the touch and a cake tester inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.  Do not overbake or muffins will be dry. Remove from oven and let muffins rest in pans for 5-7 minutes then gently remove from pan and transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Muffins freeze well.

Yield: 12 muffins

Deli-style Gluten-Free Rhubarb Granola Muffins

Tangy rhubarb purée joins granola, spices, orange juice, and Greek yogurt to make these deli-style gluten-free Rhubarb Granola Muffins

Course Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 12
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • oz rhubarb, chopped into ½ inch pieces
  • tbsp orange juice
  • 1 cup one-to-one gluten-free flour
  • 2 tbsp potato starch
  • ¼ cup gluten-free oat flour
  • ¼ cup almond flour
  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • ¾ tsp zanthan gum
  • ¼ cup gluten-free quick oats
  • tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • tbsp ground chia seeds
  • tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp ginger
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • 2 tsp finely grated orange rind
  • 2/3 cup granola (recipe link below)
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 extra-large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • tsp vanilla
  • tbsp orange juice
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup cooled rhubarb purée
  • 2 tbsp Greek style coconut yogurt or sour cream
  • tsp rose water optional

Instructions

  1. In small sauce pan, combine the rhubarb and orange juice. Cook over medium-low heat until rhubarb is softened. Cool slightly then, using the back of a large spoon, mash up the rhubarb or, alternatively, use a handheld immersion blender to purée the rhubarb. Set aside to cool completely.
  2. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  3. Prepare 12 muffin cups (each ½-cup capacity) by spraying each muffin cup with cooking spray or greasing individually.
  4. Combine flours, zanthan gum, quick oats, baking powder, soda, salt, ground chia seeds, spices, and grated orange rind together in a large bowl. Whisk ingredients well to combine. Stir in granola. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Set aside.
  5. In separate medium-sized bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the brown sugar, eggs, coconut oil, vanilla, orange juice, milk, maple syrup, Greek yogurt or sour cream, and rose water (if using). Whisk ingredients well. Stir in cooled rhubarb purée.
  6. Pour wet ingredients into well in dry ingredients. With large spoon, mix ingredients together just until dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Do not overmix.
  7. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling almost to the rim of each cup. Transfer to pre-heated oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 400°F. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until muffins are just firm to the touch and a cake tester inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean. Do not overbake or muffins will be dry. Remove from oven and let muffins rest in pans for 5-7 minutes then gently remove from pan and transfer to wire rack to cool completely. Muffins freeze well.

Recipe Notes

Link to granola recipe: http://myislandbistrokitchen.com/2016/03/08/the-bistros-great-nut-free-granola/

 

For other gluten-free muffin recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

The Ultimate Gluten-free Zucchini Date Muffins
Gluten-Free Pumpkin-Mincemeat Muffins
Deli-Style Gluten-Free Beet Muffins
Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins

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Deli-style Gluten-free Rhubarb Granola Muffins
Deli-style Gluten-free Rhubarb Granola Muffins

On The Sandwich Board: Lobster Club Sandwich with a Twist

Club Sandwich
Lobster Club Sandwich

There is nothing better than lobster fresh from the sea and, living on Prince Edward Island, we are so fortunate to have ready access to this treat! The lobster fishery is one of PEI’s main fisheries.

Preparing for Setting Day
Eve of Setting Day in the Fishing Village of North Rustico, PEI, Canada

It goes without saying that it’s a huge deal when the spring lobster fishing season opens.

Lobster Fishing
Lobster Fishing in all weather on PEI

Many islanders make it an annual ritual to head to a nearby wharf or beach before 6am on setting day to see the boats head out to sea to drop their traps.

Parade of Lobster Boats
Early Morning Gathering in French River, PEI, to Watch Parade of Lobster Boats on Setting Day

The following day the fishers head back out to haul in the first catch of the season and we Islanders can’t wait for that first “feed” of lobster!

Arriving back in North Lake, PEI, with the day's catch
Arriving back in North Lake, PEI, with the day’s catch
Lobster
Fresh Catch of Lobster

When lobster is in season on the Island, I make good use of it as an ingredient and I find no shortage of ways in which to use the succulent meat.

So, today, on my sandwich board, is a lobster club sandwich with a twist.  It contains some of the elements of a traditional club sandwich but I jazz this version up a bit by adding lobster meat, avocado, pancetta, Havarti cheese,  lemon mayonnaise , and an avocado spread.  This fusion of complementary flavours results in a tasty (and hearty) colorful sandwich. A feast for the eyes as well as the stomach!

Lobster Club Sandwich
Lobster Club Sandwich

Lobster Club with a Twist

Sandwich ingredients:

3 slices bread of choice
2 – 3 oz cooked lobster, broken into bite-size pieces
1 oz pancetta, fried and drained
1 slice Havarti
½ small avocado, sliced and sprinkled with lemon juice to prevent browning (save the other half for the avocado spread)
Lettuce of choice
Tomato
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Avocado Spread (recipe follows)
Lemon Mayonnaise (recipe follows)
Butter

Avocado Spread:

½ small avocado (save the other half for slicing for sandwich)
1 – 1½ tsp lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil
1/8 – ¼ tsp garlic salt
1 small green onion, finely sliced or diced

Lemon Mayonnaise:

1 tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp lemon juice
1 small green onion, finely sliced or diced

Avocado Spread:  Chop ½ avocado into small bowl. Using a hand-held immersion blender, blend lemon juice, olive oil, garlic salt, and green onion with the avocado, just until mixed.

Lemon Mayonnaise:  Mix mayonnaise, lemon juice, and green onion together well.

To Assemble Sandwich:  Heat 1-2 tsp butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the lobster and toss gently for 2-3 minutes, just long enough to warm the lobster.  Toast and butter the three bread slices.  Layer 1:  Spread two pieces of bread with the avocado spread.  Cover one slice of bread with lettuce and top with sliced tomato, pancetta, and Havarti slice. Top with the other slice of bread that is spread with avocado spread.  Layer 2: Spread the top slice of bread with half the lemon mayonnaise.  Lay the sliced avocado on top of the bread followed by a layer of lettuce.  Top with the lobster. Spread the third slice of bread with the remaining lemon mayonnaise and place over the lobster.  Secure sandwich with toothpicks and cut in half diagonally.  Enjoy!

Yield:  One sandwich

Lobster Club with a Twist

This ultimate club sandwich combines succulent lobster meat, pancetta, Havarti, and avocado with tomato, lettuce, avocado spread, and lemon mayonnaise to make a hearty meal.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword lobster
Servings 1
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

Sandwich ingredients:

  • 3 slices bread of choice
  • 2 - 3 oz cooked lobster, broken into bite-size pieces
  • 1 oz pancetta, fried and drained
  • 1 slice Havarti
  • ½ small avocado sliced and sprinkled with lemon juice to prevent browning (save the other half for the avocado spread)
  • Lettuce of choice
  • Tomato
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Avocado Spread (recipe follows)
  • Lemon Mayonnaise (recipe follows)
  • Butter

Avocado Spread:

  • ½ small avocado (save the other half for slicing for sandwich)
  • 1 – 1½ tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/8 – ¼ tsp garlic salt
  • 1 small green onion, finely sliced or diced

Lemon Mayonnaise:

  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 small green onion, finely sliced or diced

Instructions

Avocado Spread: Chop ½ avocado into small bowl. Using a hand-held immersion blender, blend lemon juice, olive oil, garlic salt, and green onion with the avocado, just until mixed.

Lemon Mayonnaise: Mix mayonnaise, lemon juice, and green onion together well.

To Assemble Sandwich: Heat 1-2 tsp butter in small saucepan over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, add the lobster and toss gently for 2-3 minutes, just long enough to warm the lobster. Toast and butter the three bread slices. Layer 1: Spread two pieces of bread with the avocado spread. Cover one slice of bread with lettuce and top with sliced tomato, pancetta, and Havarti slice. Top with the other slice of bread that is spread with avocado spread. Layer 2: Spread the top slice of bread with half the lemon mayonnaise. Lay the sliced avocado on top of the bread followed by a layer of lettuce. Top with the lobster. Spread the third slice of bread with the remaining lemon mayonnaise and place over the lobster. Secure sandwich with toothpicks and cut in half diagonally. Enjoy!

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Lobster Club Sandwich
Lobster Club Sandwich

Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-vent Recipe

Creamed Chicken
Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-vent

One of my favorite recipes is Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-vent. Some may know this as “creamed chicken”.  I actually make up a large batch of this delectable dish and freeze it in serving-sized portions.  It makes a quick and easy meal when all that has to be done is bake the frozen patty shells, heat up the creamed mixture, and toss a green salad.

Creamed Chicken
Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-Vent

This recipe makes four generous servings. The great thing about this recipe is that it is a good way to use up cooked chicken if you have any or, if time is limited, it can even be made with a rotisserie chicken from the deli.  Even though it is called “chicken” vol-au-vent, turkey can certainly be used as well.

While my preference is to use the puff pasty shells, commonly called “patty shells”, because they are light, airy, and ever-so-flaky, this creamed chicken mixture can also be served over toast points or biscuits fresh from the oven. I have even used appetizer-sized patty shells to serve this dish as part of a savory course for an afternoon tea. Fancy enough for company fare but easy enough for a weeknight meal.

Creamed Chicken
Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-vent

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-vent Recipe

Ingredients

Sauce:
2-3 tbsp butter
3½ tbsp all-purpose flour
¾ cup chicken broth
1 cup whole milk
1 tbsp cooking sherry (optional)
¼ tsp garlic salt
Sprinkle pepper
Dash of paprika
2-3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Filling:
2-3 tbsp butter
2 tbsp onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp red pepper, finely chopped
3 tbsp celery, finely chopped
6-8 small white button mushrooms, sliced

1 cup cooked chicken, cubed

4 frozen puff pastry patty shells (or, alternatively, biscuits or toast cups)

Method:

Sauce: In medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour. Combine the chicken broth, milk, and sherry and whisk into the flour-butter mixture, whisking until smooth. Season with garlic salt, pepper, and paprika.  Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened.  Add the Parmesan cheese and stir until cheese is melted.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Filling: In medium-sized frypan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the onion, red pepper, celery, and mushrooms.  Sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Add the chicken and toss just until heated.

Assembly:  Bake patty shells according to package directions.  Add sautéed vegetables and chicken to the sauce. Stir gently to combine. Heat over medium-low heat to ensure all ingredients are heated.  Spoon hot mixture into baked patty shells.  Serve with a side salad.

Yield: 4 generous servings

Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-vent Recipe

An easy-to-make delectable creamed chicken filling encased in light and flaky puff pastry shells. Perfect for company fare but easy enough for weeknight meals.

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword Chicken, Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-Vent, Vol-au-Vent
Servings 4
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

Sauce:

  • 2-3 tbsp butter
  • tbsp all-purpose flour
  • ¾ cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tbsp cooking sherry optional
  • ¼ tsp garlic salt
  • Sprinkle pepper
  • Dash of paprika
  • 2-3 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Filling:

  • 2-3 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp onion finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp red pepper finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp celery finely chopped
  • 6-8 small white button mushrooms sliced
  • 1 cup cooked chicken cubed

Instructions

Sauce: In medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Whisk in the flour. Combine the chicken broth, milk, and sherry and whisk into the flour-butter mixture, whisking until smooth. Season with garlic salt, pepper, and paprika. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is thickened. Add the Parmesan cheese and stir until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and set aside.

Filling: In medium-sized frypan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, red pepper, celery, and mushrooms. Sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken and toss just until heated.

Assembly: Bake patty shells according to package directions. Add sautéed vegetables and chicken to the sauce. Stir gently to combine. Heat over medium-low heat to ensure all ingredients are heated. Spoon hot mixture into baked patty shells. Serve with a side salad.

 

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Creamed Chicken
Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-Vent

Clumpy Almond Butter Granola Recipe

Almond Butter Granola
Almond Butter Granola

Homemade granola is so easy to make and customize to individual tastes.  So long as you keep the proportions of ingredients, substitutions are perfectly acceptable.  For example, my recipe calls for 3/4 cup of dried cranberries, cherries, or blueberries; however, if those don’t strike your fancy, substitute the same quantity of raisins and/or chopped dates, for example. I don’t include nuts in my granola but, if they are your taste, but all means substitute them, in the same quantity, for one of the dried fruits called for in the recipe.

I wanted this granola recipe to be crisp and clumpy, not silky fine with each ingredient separated individually.  In order to get a clumpy texture, there needs to be some binders added to the mix to get the ingredients to stick together.  In this case, I am using a combination of almond butter, maple syrup, honey, coconut oil, and an egg white which has been beaten till frothy. The other trick to getting clumpy granola is to refrain from stirring it while it bakes or cools. If the granola starts to brown too quickly in the oven, instead of stirring it, rotate the baking sheet and/or reduce the oven heat.

Almond Butter Granola
Almond Butter Granola

The basic structure of any granola recipe is simply cereal, oil of some kind, and sweetener.  The typical cereal is large flake rolled oats.  Various kinds of oil can be used – I like to use coconut oil.  For sweeteners, I typically choose maple syrup but have also included honey in this recipe along with almond butter, all three of which also provide flavour in addition to the spices. The addition of mix-ins (i.e., dried fruits, berries, nuts, chocolate, etc.) are purely personal taste.

Almond Butter Granola
Almond Butter Granola

I like granola as a cereal, topped on yogurt, as a snack and, heck, I even toss some on my salads to add a crunchy texture and flavour boost!

Almond Butter Granola
Almond Butter Granola

[Printable recipe follows at end of post]

Almond Butter Granola

Ingredients:

2 cups large flake rolled oats
1½ cups puffed brown rice cereal
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
1½ tbsp ground chia seeds

¾ cup dried coconut shavings

¾ cup dried cranberries, cherries, or blueberries (or a combination of two or three)
2/3 cup golden raisins
½ cup hemp hearts
1/3 cup dried apricots
¼ cup dried pineapple
1/3 cup dried papaya

½ cup coconut oil
6 tbsp smooth almond butter
3 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom
¼ tsp nutmeg
Pinch ginger
Pinch salt

1 extra-large egg white

Method:
 
Preheat oven to 300°F.  Line large rimmed baking sheet with tinfoil.  Spray lightly with cooking oil.

Combine rolled oats, puffed brown rice cereal, ground flaxseed, and ground chia seeds in large bowl.

In separate large bowl, combine cranberries, cherries, and/or blueberries along with the raisins, hemp hearts, apricots, pineapple, and papaya. Set aside.

In small saucepan, combine coconut oil, almond butter, maple syrup, honey, vanilla, spices, and salt.  Stir over medium-low heat until mixture is well blended and heated. Do not boil. Pour over rolled oats mixture and stir.

Beat egg white until frothy. Pour over rolled oats and syrup mixture.  Stir to coat mixture with the egg white.

Spread oats evenly in a single layer on baking sheet.  Bake for 35-40 minutes or until oats are a deep caramel color and start to get crispy and fragrant.  Do not stir during the baking. If granola starts to brown quickly, rotate the baking sheet in the oven and/or reduce the heat. Add coconut shavings to oats during the last 5 minutes of baking.  Remove from oven and cool for 20-30 minutes then transfer toasted oat mixture to the large bowl containing the dried fruit.  Stir well to combine all ingredients.  Store granola in airtight container at room temperature for 5-7 days or store in refrigerator for longer use.

Yield: Apx. 8 cups

Clumpy Almond Butter Granola

A crunchy and clump lightly spiced granola made with almond butter, maple syrup, and honey
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2 cups large flake rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups puffed brown rice cereal
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ground chia seeds
  • 3/4 cup dried coconut shavings
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries, cherries, or blueberries (or a combination of two or three)
  • 2/3 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup hemp hearts
  • 1/3 cup dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup dried pineapple
  • 1/3 cup dried papaya
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 6 tbsp smooth almond butter
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • pinch ginger
  • pinch salt
  • 1 extra-large egg white

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line large rimmed baking sheet with tinfoil. Spray lightly with cooking oil.
  2. Combine rolled oats, puffed brown rice cereal, ground flaxseed, and ground chia seeds in large bowl.
  3. In separate large bowl, combine cranberries, cherries, and/or blueberries along with the raisins, hemp hearts, apricots, pineapple, and papaya. Set aside.
  4. In small saucepan, combine coconut oil, almond butter, maple syrup, honey, vanilla, spices, and salt. Stir over medium-low heat until mixture is well blended and heated. Do not boil. Pour over rolled oats mixture and stir.
  5. Beat egg white until frothy. Pour over rolled oats and syrup mixture. Stir to coat mixture with the egg white.
  6. Spread oats evenly in a single layer on baking sheet. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until oats are a deep caramel color and start to get crispy and fragrant. Do not stir during the baking. If granola starts to brown quickly, rotate the baking sheet in the oven and/or reduce the heat. Add coconut shavings to oats during the last 5 minutes of baking. Remove from oven and cool for 20-30 minutes then transfer toasted oat mixture to the large bowl containing the dried fruit. Stir well to combine all ingredients. Store granola in airtight container at room temperature for 5-7 days or store in refrigerator for longer use.

    Yield: Apx. 8 cups

For another great granola recipe from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the link below:

The Bistro’s Great Nut-free Granola

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Granola
Almond Butter Granola

Cherry Loaf Recipe

Cherry Loaf
Cherry Loaf

This Cherry Loaf recipe is as pretty as it is tasty, speckled with maraschino cherries that, themselves, lend great flavour to the loaf.

Quick breads, leavened with baking powder, and sometimes soda, are an easy alternative to muffins – but, they’re born of the same family!  They are quick to make (because there is no yeast involved) and are great additions to breakfast, brunch, and coffeebreaks.

There are two methods for making quick breads.

Creaming Method – This method calls for the solid fat product (shortening, butter, or margarine) to be softened at room temperature for 25-30 minutes (not microwaved which can change its properties and can cause it to quickly become liquefied). The fat is then beaten/creamed, either by hand if you are prepared to devote some elbow grease to the process, or by electric mixer on low speed. The sugar is then added and creamed with the fat product until the mixture is a pale or light colour and the texture is airy or fluffy. This “creaming’ process whips air into the batter which allows air pockets (or bubbles) to form (and expand during baking) that, in addition to leavening agents such as baking powder and soda, help the cake or loaf to rise.

The room temperature eggs are then added, one at a time.  Adding the eggs, with this technique, allows them time to, individually and slowly, mix in well with the creamed fat and sugar mixture and limit the possibility of them curdling.  The watery eggs and the fat product don’t naturally mix well, or bind, together (same principle as trying to mix water and oil together).  If all the eggs called for in the recipe are added all at once, they become more than what the fat-sugar mixture can handle at the same time and the ingredients separate and look curdled or scrambled. Adding the eggs slowly allows them to be better incorporated with the fat-sugar mixture.

With the creamed method, the liquid ingredients are combined together in one bowl or measuring cup and the dry ingredients are whisked together in a separate bowl.  The dry ingredients are added to the creamed mixture alternately with the wet ingredients, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients (three additions of dry to two additions of wet ingredients). While the stand mixer should be fitted with the paddle attachment for the creaming method, it’s important not to over-beat the batter once the flour and liquid ingredients have been added because that will cause gluten to form and a loaf with a tough crumb is likely to result. Beat only until all the ingredients are incorporated and the batter is smooth.

This method will yield a moist texture loaf with a fine crumb (lots of tiny holes of fairly uniform size), reminiscent of a  dense cake texture.

Cherry Loaf
Slice of Cherry Loaf

Muffin Method – This method calls for the dry ingredients to be whisked together well in one bowl.  All the liquid ingredients are mixed in a separate bowl with oil or a fat that has been liquefied (and, often, the sugar is mixed in with the liquid ingredients).  The liquid ingredients are then simply added to the dry ingredients and stirred together just until the ingredients are barely combined.

Because no creaming of butter and sugar is involved in this method, the loaf will not have the added advantage of the air pockets being formed by this process to help the loaf to rise. In this method, the loaf will rely solely on leavening agents (baking powder, soda) to rise. The batter will often be lumpy  which is okay (it will even out on its own during baking) and it’s important not to overmix the batter trying to get it smooth as this will activate the development of gluten that will result in a tough crumb.

For this method, stir the mixture by hand because an electric mixer will overmix the batter. This method will often yield a slightly drier texture (than the creaming method does) with a larger, coarser crumb in the loaf, closely resembling the texture of muffins, hence the name “muffin method”.

The muffin method is commonly used to mix up waffles and pancakes as well.

Cherry Loaf
Cherry Loaf

My recipe for Cherry Loaf uses the creamed method because I want a delicate, refined texture in this particular loaf.

Cherry Loaf
Cherry Loaf

All ingredients should be at room temperature for about 25-30 minutes before mixing the batter.  The ingredients blend better if they are at room temperature. If you think of nice soft butter or shortening being hit with cold eggs or milk, it’s obvious that the ingredients will simply clump together rather than blend in well. The result will be a loaf that does not have the best texture possible.

There is a choice of fat product in this loaf – either shortening, butter, or margarine will yield a good loaf.  Butter, however, will obviously give the most flavor 😉

This loaf calls for maraschino cherries.  These are the best option for this loaf because they are soft and beautifully bright colored.  Dried cherries are too chewy and coarse and will not create the lovely red-dotted speckles throughout the loaf.  Maraschino cherries, however, are wet and if they are not blotted dry, they will add too much excess moisture to the loaf.  I recommend blotting the cherries with a paper towel, cutting them, and blotting them again.  The idea is not to dry them out but, rather, to remove the excess moisture.

Cherry Loaf
Cherry Loaf

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Cherry Loaf

Ingredients:

1/3 cup shortening, butter, or margarine
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 large eggs, room temperature

2/3 cup milk, room temperature
1½ tbsp orange juice, room temperature
2½ tbsp maraschino cherry juice, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
¼ tsp almond flavouring

2¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup maraschino cherries, well-drained, blotted dry, and coarsely chopped

Method:

Bring shortening, butter, or margarine, eggs, milk, and orange and maraschino cherry juices to room temperature approximately 25-30 minutes before preparing batter.

Remove cherries from their juice and, using paper towel, blot them dry.  Cut up cherries and blot again on paper towel to remove the excess moisture. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease 9”x5”x3” loaf pan.

In 1-cup measuring cup, or small bowl, combine the milk, orange juice, cherry juice, vanilla, and almond flavouring. Stir to mix.

In medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together well.

In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment and on low speed, cream the shortening, butter, or margarine well.  Gradually add the granulated sugar, then the brown sugar.  Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until ingredients are pale-colored and mixture has an airy/fluffy texture. Stop mixer, as necessary, to scrape bowl with rubber spatula to ensure the ingredients are evenly incorporated.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and using the spatula, as necessary, to scrape sides of bowl.

Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk mixture, starting and ending with the dry ingredients (three additions of dry ingredients with two additions of wet ingredients).  Periodically scrape sides of bowl with spatula to ensure all ingredients are combined. Do not overmix.

Remove bowl from mixer stand and stir in the cherries by hand, just until they are blended in.

Transfer batter to prepared pan and, using a knife, smooth the top of the loaf.  Bake for approximately 1 hour or until cake tester inserted into center of loaf comes out clean. If loaf starts to brown, it may be loosely tented with tin foil after about 45 minutes of baking; ensure loaf top is completely set before allowing the tin foil to touch it as it will peel off the top of the loaf. Let loaf rest in pan for 10 minutes then turn out on to wire rack to cool completely before cutting.

Yield:  One loaf, 14 slices (sliced approximately ½” thick)

Notes:  Loaf is best made the day before it is needed.  Let cool completely on wire rack then place in airtight plastic bag and store in refrigerator overnight to allow the flavours time to blend and the loaf to soften.  Loaf freezes well.

Cherry Loaf

This flavourful cherry loaf is an easy-to-make moist quick bread that is speckled with colorful maraschino cherries

Course Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 14
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup shortening, butter, or margarine
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2/3 cup milk, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tbsp orange juice, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 tbsp maraschino cherry juice, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp almond flavouring
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup maraschino cherries, well-drained, blotted dry, and coarsely chopped

Instructions

  1. Bring shortening, butter, or margarine, eggs, milk, and orange and maraschino cherry juices to room temperature approximately 25-30 minutes before preparing batter.
  2. Remove cherries from their juice and, using paper towel, blot them dry. Cut up cherries and blot again on paper towel to remove the excess moisture. Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease 9”x5”x3” loaf pan.
  4. In 1-cup measuring cup, or small bowl, combine the milk, orange juice, cherry juice, vanilla, and almond flavouring. Stir to mix.
  5. In medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together well.
  6. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment and on low speed, cream the shortening, butter, or margarine well. Gradually add the granulated sugar, then the brown sugar. Increase mixer speed to medium and beat until ingredients are pale-colored and mixture has an airy/fluffy texture. Stop mixer, as necessary, to scrape bowl with rubber spatula to ensure the ingredients are evenly incorporated.
  7. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and using the spatula, as necessary, to scrape sides of bowl.
  8. Add the flour mixture alternately with the milk mixture, starting and ending with the dry ingredients (three additions of dry ingredients with two additions of wet ingredients). Periodically scrape sides of bowl with spatula to ensure all ingredients are combined. Do not overmix.
  9. Remove bowl from mixer stand and stir in the cherries by hand, just until they are blended in.
  10. Transfer batter to prepared pan and, using a knife, smooth the top of the loaf. Bake for approximately 1 hour or until cake tester inserted into center of loaf comes out clean. If loaf starts to brown, it may be loosely tented with tin foil after about 45 minutes of baking; ensure loaf top is completely set before allowing the tin foil to touch it as it will peel off the top of the loaf. Let loaf rest in pan for 10 minutes then turn out on to wire rack to cool completely before cutting.

Recipe Notes

Notes: Loaf is best made the day before it is needed. Let cool completely on wire rack then place in airtight plastic bag and store in refrigerator overnight to allow the flavours time to blend and the loaf to soften. Loaf freezes well.

 

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

 Cinnamon Sweet Bread
Glazed Lemon Pecan Sweet Bread

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Cherry Loaf
Cherry Loaf

 

Aw, Shucks! The Merroir of PEI Malpeque Oysters

PEI Malpeque Oysters
PEI Malpeque Oysters

Prince Edward Island is well-known for its variety of high quality shellfish – think lobster, mussels, and oysters, in particular.  Today, however, my blog posting is all about the world-famous PEI Malpeque oysters. According to the PEI Government website (https://www.princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/agriculture-and-fisheries/oysters ), the Island is Canada’s second largest oyster producing province and is the largest oyster producing province in the Atlantic region. It’s not uncommon in my travels to find PEI Malpeque Oysters on a restaurant menu.  No matter the variety or brand of oysters from PEI, or what part of the Island they are fished or farmed, they are generally all referred to as “Malpeques”.  How that came to be is, itself, an interesting story.

PEI oysters have a long history with the government issuing leases for oyster fishing back as far as the mid-1800s to those wishing to fish oysters from the ocean seabed.  The oysters were made famous at the 1900 Paris World Fair where, in an oyster-tasting contest, they were crowned the world’s best oysters. The oysters were simply named for Malpeque Bay on the Island’s north shore from where the winning oysters were fished.

However, the oyster industry on PEI was stricken in 1915 when disease wiped out about 90% of the Island’s oyster population. Miraculously, however, the oysters in Malpeque Bay survived.  Seed (which is basically a tiny version of an adult oyster) from these oysters was gathered and spread throughout other bodies of water around the Island and the oyster industry rebounded. To this day, over 100 years later, all oysters produced on PEI are considered to be direct descendants of oysters from Malpeque Bay. So, that’s why all PEI oysters, regardless from what part of the Island they come, or what variety or brand they are, are called “Malpeques”.  Who knew PEI oysters had lineage and a family tree! So, while there is one species – the Malpeques – there can be any number of varieties and brands. A little more about the varieties of “Malpeques” a bit later.

To find out more about the oyster industry on PEI, I paid a visit to the Raspberry Point Oyster Co., one of the Island’s largest oyster growing operators, processors, and exporters.  At the company’s hub operations center in Bayview near Cavendish on PEI’s north shore, I caught up with James Power, oyster connoisseur and manager of the Raspberry Point Oyster Co.

James Power, Manager, Raspberry Point Oyster Co., PEI
James Power, Manager, Raspberry Point Oyster Co., PEI

James lives and breathes oysters and you would be hard pressed to find anyone any more passionate about the oyster industry than James.  And, with good reason.  Oyster sales are brisk for the Raspberry Point Oyster Co., growing year over year.  James tells me that more than 10M oysters are cultured annually from the company’s farming operations in New London Bay, Rustico, and Oyster Bed Bridge/Rustico Bay. While the majority (about 90%) of their sales are in North America (with Montreal, Toronto, and Boston accounting for about 75% of sales), they regularly ship internationally all over the world that includes weekly shipments to the Netherlands as well as regular shipments to places like Belgium, France, Hong Kong, China, and Singapore. Small wonder, then, why it’s generally not too surprising to find PEI oysters on restaurant menus in all corners of the world!

Both oyster fishing and oyster farming exist on PEI.  The traditional method of oyster fishing is done through the use of manually-operated large wooden tongs.

Oyster Fishing on PEI
Oyster Fishing on PEI

If you travel around the shores, bays, rivers, and estuaries of PEI, a common sight from spring to fall will be dozens of little dories each manned by a lone fisher using long wooden tongs with rakes at the ends to scoop up the oysters. These are independent local oyster fishers who buy licenses from the federal government allowing them to fish wild oysters on any public fishing grounds.

Oyster Fishing
Oyster Fishing

These oysters are known as bottom culture oysters that are slow to mature taking, on average, 5-7 years to grow to the desired market size of 3” – 3½“.  Bottom culture oysters grow slowly because there is less natural food available to them. Oysters harvested by these small independent fishers are sold to oyster processing plants.

Oyster Fishing in Summerside, PEI
Oyster Fishing in Summerside, PEI

The other method of producing oysters is to raise, culture, or grow the oysters, a practice commonly known as “oyster farming” and that’s the method used by large commercial growers for mass production needed to meet demands from around the world. Growers lease ground, that is not public fishing ground, in which to grow their oysters.

There are two methods of oyster aquaculture – bottom culture and off-bottom (sometimes known as top, floating, or surface culture) and Raspberry Point Oyster Co. uses both methods. With bottom culture oysters, grown in water depth between 3’ and 8’, the grower spreads the oyster seed on the seabed. James says their top culture oysters are grown in water that is between 8’ and 15’ deep.  The oyster seed is purchased from hatcheries and from oyster farmers who catch wild spat, or larvae in collectors like the ones in the photo below. Once the oysters are big enough, they will be transferred to netted bags to grow, safe from predators like starfish and crabs.

Oyster Spat Collectors
Oyster Spat Collectors

All oysters at Raspberry Point Oyster Co. are started as top culture in floating mesh bags and then some are moved to bottom culture areas. The type of culture (bottom or top) used is often chosen on the basis of local growing conditions. Some parts of leased areas are too shallow for top culture and others might have too soft a seabed for bottom culture oysters. Using the two methods of farming, therefore, allows the Raspberry Point Oyster Co. to maximize the growing areas in their leases and also allows oysters to develop with different flavours, colors (they range from brown/white, gray to green), and appearance. Generally, the larger oyster seed is spread on the seabed because the oysters’ advanced size makes it more difficult for crabs and starfish to get at them.

Colors and Textures of PEI Oysters
Colors, Shapes, and Textures of PEI Oysters

When the bottom culture oysters have grown to market size, specialized oyster harvesters that use water pressure, scoop up the oysters.  The oysters come up from the seabed on to an escalator and those that are of the desired size are harvested while ones not quite of sufficient size are returned to the seabed bottom to allow them to continue to grow.  Bottom culture oysters usually take 5-7 years to grow to market size and this is because there is usually less water flow and food on the sea bed than is available for surface culture oysters. Oyster farmers do not need to provide special food for their oysters as the bivalves draw all the necessary nutrients from their seawater habitat along with naturally occurring plankton and plant life.  So long as the mollusks have clean water and care is taken to limit their predators access, oysters will grow naturally on their own.

The other method of growing oysters is top culture, often referred to as surface or floating culture. With advances in oyster growing technology and methods, today’s floating aquaculture speeds up the rate of maturation allowing for top culture oysters to be grown in about 3-5 years.  There is usually more constant water flow as the result of wave action during tidal changes and more natural food supplies nearer the water’s surface so oysters grown as top culture in floating bags just at or under the water surface are able to grow to market size sooner.  Top culture oyster farming involves growing the oysters in mesh bags that float in basket-like cages around the water surface level.

Floating Cage for Top Culture Oysters
Floating Cage for Top Culture Oysters
Floating Cage for Top Culture Oysters
Floating Cage for Top Culture Oysters

The baskets are constructed so that the water is able to flush through, bringing food to the mollusks and keeping them cleaner than those grown in the mud on the seabed bottom. The baskets are regularly flipped and the water flow and waves rock the baskets and chip away, or manicure, the rough edges of the oysters, giving them a more desirable looking shell. This also allows for seaweed, barnacles, and other organisms that find their way into the baskets to be exposed to sunlight and dry out and not become an infestation to the growing oysters. The bags inside the floating baskets also help to protect the oysters against predators. So, if you see rows of these floating cages in a body of water around the Island, you’ll know they’re filled with growing oysters.

Floating Cages of Oysters in New London Bay, PEI
Floating Cages of Oysters in New London Bay, PEI
Floating Cages of Oysters in New London Bay, PEI
Floating Cages of Oysters in New London Bay, PEI

Once oysters, either bottom or top cultures, have reached their market size, they are brought into the processing plant where they are culled, graded for size and shape, washed, counted, boxed, and are shipped to customers around the world.

Oysters Arriving at the Processing Plant
Oysters Arriving at the Processing Plant
Grading and Sorting Oysters
Grading and Sorting Oysters
Washing the Oysters
Washing the Oysters
Quality Controlling the Oysters Just Before They Are Boxed for Shipping
Quality Controlling the Oysters Just Before They Are Boxed for Shipping
A Box of "Lucky Limes" Oysters from Raspberry Point Oyster Company in PEI
A Box of “Lucky Limes” Oysters from Raspberry Point Oyster Co. in PEI
Inside the Processing Plant at Raspberry Point Oyster Company, Bayview, PEI
Inside the Processing Plant at Raspberry Point Oyster Company, Bayview, PEI
Bags of Oysters at the Raspberry Point Oyster Co.
Bags of Oysters at the Raspberry Point Oyster Co.
Inside the Cold Storage Room at Raspberry Point Oyster Co. in Bayview, PEI
Inside the Cold Storage Room at Raspberry Point Oyster Co. in Bayview, PEI

Because this industry is now year-round, oysters not needed for immediate shipment are put into trays like the ones shown to the left in the photo below and placed back out into shallow water until needed.

Oyster Trays
Oyster Trays

Since they are already graded, counted, and sorted by variety, they can quickly be retrieved and shipped when orders come in year-round.

The barge in the photo below is returning to shore with a load of trays filled with graded and sorted oysters which will soon be on their way somewhere in the world to fill orders!

Barge Returning to Shore with a Load of Oysters Ready for Market
Barge Returning to Shore with a Load of Oysters Ready for Market
Offloading Oysters Ready for Market
Offloading Oysters Ready for Market

Oysters like cold water but, in PEI’s cold winters, they can’t stay up near the water’s surface where they would freeze. So, for top culture/surface grown oysters, the Raspberry Point Oyster Co. sinks aluminum cages filled with oysters into 15’ – 20’ of water each winter. At the time of writing, the company prepared upwards of 1000 aluminum cages that they filled and sunk with 7000 graded and sorted oysters per cage at the end of November. Locations of cages are marked by a metal pole and the oyster harvesters head out over the ice to retrieve the oysters to fill winter shipments, making the Island’s oyster farming a year-round industry.

Preparing to Saw Through Ice to Retrieve Oyster Cages (Photo submitted by James Power, Raspberry Point Oyster Co.)
Preparing to Saw Through Ice to Retrieve Oyster Cages (Photo submitted by James Power, Raspberry Point Oyster Co.)

Sometimes, the ice is so thick that workers have to use a high-powered saw (shown in photo above) to cut through the thick ice so that tethered divers can dive in and locate the cages and hook them up to a hydraulic lift that will pull them out of the water.

Diving Under the Ice to Retrieve Oyster Cages Sunk for the Winter (Photo Submitted by James Power, Raspberry Point Oyster Co.)
Diving Under the Ice to Retrieve Oyster Cages Sunk for the Winter (Photo Submitted by James Power, Raspberry Point Oyster Co.)
Retrieved Oyster Cage Filled with Oysters Ready for Market (Photo Submitted by James Power, Raspberry Point Oyster Co.)
Retrieved Oyster Cage Filled with Oysters Ready for Market (Photo Submitted by James Power, Raspberry Point Oyster Co.)

The oysters are then hauled on a sled towed behind a four-wheeler or, if the ice is sufficiently thick, by a truck, back to the processing and shipping plant.

The varieties of oysters on PEI are often (though not always) named for the body of water in which they are grown. The Raspberry Point Oyster Co. draws its name from a little point of land on the Homestead Trail in nearby Cavendish.  Readers from outside PEI will likely associate the Cavendish name as the setting for famed authoress Lucy Maud Montgomery’s famous Anne of Green Gables series of books. A number of years ago, Scott and Charles Linkletter, the owners of Raspberry Point’s forerunner company, The PEI Oyster Company, had a lease to fish oysters in this area so they renamed the company to the Raspberry Point Oyster Co. Today, still owned and operated by the Linkletter family, Raspberry Point Oyster Co. has six varieties of Malpeque oysters on the market:

  • Raspberry Point – Bearing the company name, this variety of 3” oysters is grown as bottom culture in leases in New London Bay. The Raspberry Point variety is the company’s most popular oyster.
  • Lucky Limes – These are 3” oysters, also bottom grown in a lease along the Homestead Trail in New London Bay. The water in this area is filled with algae and that’s what turns the oyster shells green, thus the “lime” in the name.

    Box of Lucky Lime Variety of Oysters from Raspberry Point Oyster Co.
    Box of Lucky Lime Variety of Oysters from Raspberry Point Oyster Co.
  • Shiny Sea – At 2½“ in size, these are considered to be the “baby brother” of the larger 3” Raspberry Point variety. These bottom cultures are also grown in New London Bay.
  • Pickle Point – These are top-culture oysters as they are grown nearer the water’s surface in floating bags in New London Bay.
  • Daisy Bay – These 3” oysters are top-culture, or surface culture, grown in North Rustico.
  • Irish Point – Considered to be cocktail size oysters, these 2½“ oysters are also surface cultures and are grown in North Rustico.

Controls are in place to ensure sustainability of the Island’s oyster industry. Only so many leases are granted by the government to avoid overfishing.  The mollusks, themselves, help to ensure their species continue to survive as they act as great filters to clean the water of toxins by filtering algae and phytoplankton from the water.

According to James, the nature of the water flow and the shape of the seed oyster will basically determine the final shape of the oyster. While James will say that the perfect oyster is very much an individual’s own taste, he says the perfect shaped oyster, in his opinion, is a rounded tear-drop shape that is 3” long by 2” wide. The perfect flavour should consist of a clean, salty taste and a sweet finish.  The meat should be a little bit, but not too, fatty because nothing should interfere with the natural salty taste.

Power says oysters are like terroir is to wine – the flavour of each variety is built on the content of the bay or stream in which the oysters are grown and each oyster will look and taste a little different from the next one.  Since the oysters are coming from the sea and the French word for sea is “mer”, perhaps the term “merroir”, as some have coined it, might be the best description! Power says true oyster connoisseurs can identify the different flavour profiles in raw oysters.  Oysters grown in waters that have more of a rock base may have a mineral-rich flavour (though none of Raspberry Point oysters have this terroir/merroir) while others grown elsewhere may have a slight vegetable taste picked up from whatever vegetation or algae may be in their water habitat.

Power also says the oyster meat and flavour change with the seasons.  In summer, the oysters are thin and salty – the bivalves are more interested in reproduction than getting fat so keeping their svelte figure is obviously their concern!  In the fall (September – October), the waters are getting colder and the oysters will start building up fat for the cold winter months.  When the water temperature gets down to 5°C, the oysters shut down and hibernate inside their hard shells, living off the fat they built up in the fall. So, if you are eating oysters that come from icy waters, they’re likely to be quite plump and perhaps just a little sweeter.  In the spring, the oysters still stay fat but, as the snow melts, it dilutes the natural salt in the water so the oysters will taste less salty.

Oysters are low in fat, high in protein, and are a good source of iron and zinc.  They are also a source of, amongst others, Vitamins B12 and C along with Thiamin, Magnesium, and Phosphorus.

PEI Oysters
PEI Oysters

Oysters are most often served raw on the half shell on a bed of ice with freshly squeezed lemon or, sometimes, with a peppery shallot mignonette.  Chef Michael Smith often serves oysters with a Bloody Mary Ice seen in the photo below.

Shucked PEI Oysters Served with Bloody Mary Ice
Shucked PEI Oysters Served with Bloody Mary Ice

Oysters are shucked using a special short, blunt knife made for this purpose. Power says he believes oysters are popular, especially eaten raw, because they are an all-natural food, not processed or transformed.  Oyster bars are very popular and an emerging trend is to pair oysters with wines, beers, and whiskey. Fresh oysters are available at most fish markets on PEI as well as the larger supermarkets. On PEI, many restaurants serve raw oysters and, at many Fall Flavours Festival events each September, oysters are a staple, like they were at the 2017 “A Taste of Rustico” event where Chef Michael Smith (in photo below) was busy shucking Raspberry Point oysters.

Chef Michael Smith Shucking Raspberry Point Oysters at "Taste of Rustico" Fall Flavours event 2017
Chef Michael Smith Shucking Raspberry Point Oysters at “Taste of Rustico” Fall Flavours event 2017
Raspberry Point Oysters at Taste of Rustico Event 2017
Raspberry Point Oysters at Taste of Rustico Event 2017

So, the next time you are slurping back one of the plump briny Prince Edward Island oysters, you’ll now know a little bit more about how the Island oysters are produced, the flavour profile of an Island oyster, and you’ll be enjoying a unique terroir (or perhaps it’s “merroir”) taste from waters in and around Prince Edward Island on Canada’s East Coast.

Plump PEI Oysters
Plump PEI Oysters

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Oyster Farming
Oyster Farming

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Irish Stew

I love a bowl of rich Irish Stew any time of the year but, for certain, I will make it around St. Patrick’s Day! It’s a filling and tummy-warming stew that is always a welcome sight on the dinner table.

Irish Stew
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Irish Stew

According to my research, traditional Irish Stew was made with cheap cuts of mutton or lamb and basic root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, onions, and turnips. Years ago, these would have been ingredients that were, no doubt, simply what would have been available at the time in the Irish countryside where sheep were raised for their wool and for food and when, before the potato famine, potatoes were a primary Irish crop.

Over the years, Irish Stew recipes have changed according to the locale and what ingredients are available in the cook’s local area.  For example, beef is often used in North America today instead of lamb in Irish Stew and other ingredients are added to make a more flavourful, hearty stew as opposed to a broth-like dish.  Purists might argue that these changes result in a brand new stew recipe altogether and is something entirely different than the original Irish Stew.

Regardless what it is called, I like my version of Irish Stew!  It has a nice rich, robust flavour and a splendid reddish-brown color that comes primarily from the addition of tomato paste with the aid of some red wine and the Guinness.  Using Guinness and red wine also helps to tenderize the meat and also adds to the flavour of the stew.  I don’t add huge amounts of either as the intent is not to “drown” the natural flavours of the beef and veggies but rather to blend and enhance flavours.

Any kind of potato can be diced and used in this recipe.  However, with the ready availability of mini potatoes in recent years, I like to use the tiny potatoes left whole with peelings on. I think they add an interesting element to the stew. If you can’t find the really small, mini potatoes, use slightly larger small potatoes sliced in half, lengthwise.

Irish Stew
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Irish Stew

The nice thing about Irish Stew (once you have all the veggies cut up) is that it is an all-encompassing meal with all the vegetables in one dish (no worries about getting different pots of vegetables all cooked at the same time for the meal and a real bonus of only having one pot to wash).  This meal-in-one stew really needs nothing more for a hearty meal than a slice of bread, rolls, or garlic bread and perhaps some homemade mustard pickles on the side.

I like to slow-cook this stew in the oven at 325°F for a couple of hours as opposed to cooking it on the cooktop.  I find oven-cooking allows the flavours to slowly blend and the stew to gradually thicken as it cooks. The longer the stew cooks, the thicker the sauce will be but the stew should be cooked only until the vegetables are fork-tender, not mushy. If the sauce has not all cooked up with the vegetables (some varieties of potatoes, for example, will soak up more sauce than others), it makes a great dipping sauce for the bread or rolls!

Irish Stew
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Irish Stew

[Printable recipe follows at end of post]

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Irish Stew

Ingredients
3/4 pound stew beef chopped
1 – 1½ tbsp olive oil

1 cup carrots sliced
2/3 cup parsnips, sliced or diced
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 cup turnip, diced
1 leek sliced  (white and light green part only)
3 cups potatoes, diced OR 1 lb mini potatoes (left whole)

1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp Herbs de Provence
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 – 5.5 oz can tomato paste
1 – 10 oz can beef consommé
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup Guinness
1 cup water
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 bayleaf

Instructions
Assemble ingredients and preheat oven to 325°F.

Chop stew meat into bite-size pieces.

In large skillet, over medium heat, brown meat in 1 – 1½ tbsp olive oil.

Place vegetables and meat in greased 2½-quart roaster or casserole.

In large bowl, combine sugar, herbs, garlic, tomato paste, beef consommé, Worcestershire Sauce, red wine, Guinness, and water. Whisk in flour until smooth. Pour over vegetables in roaster. Stir mixture to combine. Add bayleaf.

Cover roaster and place in pre-heated oven. Cook for approximately 2 hours or until vegetables are fork-tender when tested.

Serve with Irish Soda Bread, rolls, French Bread, or Garlic Bread.

Yield: Apx. 6 servings

My Island Bistro Kitchen's Irish Stew

A rich hearty stew made with beef and a variety of vegetables and flavoured with Guinness and red wine

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 6
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb stew beef, chopped
  • 1 -1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup carrots, sliced
  • 2/3 cup parsnips, sliced or diced
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup turnip, diced
  • 1 leek, sliced (white and light green parts only)
  • 3 cups potatoes, diced OR 1 lb mini potatoes (left whole, peelings on)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp Herbs de Provence
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 5.5 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 10 oz can beef consommé
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup Guinness
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 bayleaf

Instructions

  1. Assemble ingredients and preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Chop stew meat into bite-size pieces.
  3. In large skillet, over medium heat, brown meat in 1 - 1½ tbsp olive oil.
  4. Place vegetables and meat in greased 2½-quart roaster or casserole.
  5. In large bowl, combine sugar, herbs, garlic, tomato paste, beef consommé, Worcestershire Sauce, red wine, Guinness, and water. Whisk in flour until smooth. Pour over vegetables in roaster. Stir mixture to combine. Add bayleaf.
  6. Cover roaster and place in pre-heated oven. Cook for approximately 2 hours or until vegetables are fork-tender when tested.

Recipe Notes

Serve with Irish Soda Bread, rolls, French Bread, or Garlic Bread.

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Irish Stew
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Irish Stew

The Ultimate Gluten-Free Zucchini Date Muffins

Gluten Free Zucchini Date Muffins
Gluten-Free Zucchini Date Muffins

These Gluten-Free Zucchini Date Muffins will rival any traditional wheat-based muffins!  They sport a lovely domed top that is the hallmark of a perfect muffin shape, they are packed full of flavor, and they have a lovely tender, moist crumb.

Gluten Free Zucchini Date Muffins
Gluten-Free Zucchini Date Muffins

Like any good quality gluten-free muffins that replicate deli-style muffins, I find that they do take a few more ingredients and thus can be a bit more time-consuming to make than many recipes for traditional wheat-based muffins. But the end result is so worth the effort!  Because mixing up the different flours and opening various spice bottles is the most time-consuming part of the exercise, what I will most often do is mix up the dry ingredients the night before I plan to make the muffins and cover the container. The next day, I simply mix up the wet ingredients and add them to the dry ingredients and that does speed up the process.  In fact, I will often go on a muffin-making frolic and make 5-6 different batches for the freezer on the same day. When I do this, I always mix up the dry ingredients the night before and label each container appropriately.

Gluten Free Zucchini Date Muffins
Gluten-Free Zucchini Date Muffins

A mixture of gluten-free flours will yield better flavour and quality than simply using an all-purpose gluten-free flour as the entire flour ingredient. Quite frankly, I find gluten-free all-purpose flour by itself often has an “offputting” flavour in baked goods. That’s why I use a blend of some all-purpose gluten-free flour, gluten-free oat flour, almond flour, coconut flour (my real favorite!) and potato starch. The potato starch, zanthan gum, and quick oats in this recipe help to give these muffins structure and ‘holding power’ so they don’t fall apart. Muffins with good structure should be able to be broken or cut apart and still stay intact without crumbling to pieces.

Gluten Free Zucchini Date Muffins
Gluten-Free Zucchini Date Muffins

Adding spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves really give these muffins a flavour boost along with grated orange rind which goes very well with zucchini.

The secret ingredient to these muffins is….wait for it….puréed baby food!  I have been using baby food in regular muffin recipes for years. It gives moisture and flavour to muffins. Instead of using applesauce or pumpkin purée, baby food works just great. I like puréed pears in this recipe but have made them with other flavours, such as peach-mango, with great success.

Use freshly grated zucchini, not frozen, in this recipe. Frozen zucchini has too much water in it for these muffins.  Grate the zucchini quite coarsely using the large hole side of a box grater or a flat grater like the one shown in the left in the photo below. I like chopped dates in these muffins although raisins would also work.

Gluten Free Zucchini Date Muffins
Gluten-Free Zucchini Date Muffins

These muffins bake well in muffin cups that have a 1/2-cup capacity. I like making them in my square muffin tins.  I am particularly partial to square muffins for a couple of reasons. First, well okay, I just like the overall look of them! And, I find they look nicer when they are cut open – they look like the little mini loaves they are! Second, they are easier to package in plastic wrap and store in the freezer than are round muffins.

Gluten Free Zucchini Date Muffins
Gluten-Free Zucchini Date Muffins

Preheating the oven to 450F is not a typo! Putting the muffins into a high-heat oven helps them get the “loft” that will form the dome shape. I do this with my muffins, whether they are wheat-based or gluten free and it works.  The key thing to remember, however, is to immediately lower the heat to 400F as soon as the muffins go in the oven. Otherwise, baking them the entire time at 450F will result in dried out muffins.

Take care not to overbake these muffins or they will become dry. Test them with a cake tester at the 18-minute baking point to see if the tester comes out clean. If it doesn’t, continue to bake them, checking them every 1 1/2 minutes or so.

These Gluten-Free Zucchini Date Muffins are a standard staple in my freezer. Because they freeze so well, they are great to have on hand to throw in to the lunch bag on weekday mornings. Serve them with, or without, butter and/or a favorite jam.

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Gluten-Free Zucchini Date Muffins

Ingredients:

1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
2 tbsp potato starch
¼ cup gluten free oat flour
¼ cup almond flour
¼ cup coconut flour
1¼ tsp zanthan gum
¼ cup gluten-free quick oats
5½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp ground chia seeds
1½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
2 tsp grated orange rind

2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
¼ cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
1½ tsp vanilla
1 – 4.5 oz container of puréed pears baby food
½ cup buttermilk or soured milk*
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 cup grated zucchini (apx. 5 oz zucchini)
¾ cup chopped dates

Method:

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Prepare 12 muffin cups (each ½-cup capacity) by spraying each muffin cup with cooking spray or greasing individually.

Combine flours, zanthan gum, quick oats, baking powder, soda, salt, ground chia seeds, spices, and grated orange rind together in a large bowl.  Whisk ingredients well to combine. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Set aside.

In separate medium-sized bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the brown sugar, eggs, coconut oil, vanilla, puréed pears baby food, milk*, and maple syrup. (*To sour milk, pour 1½ tsp vinegar into a ½ cup measuring cup. Fill with milk.  Let stand for 5-10 minutes before stirring and using.) Whisk ingredients well. Stir in grated zucchini and chopped dates.

Pour wet ingredients into well in dry ingredients.  With large spoon, mix ingredients together just until dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Do not overmix.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling almost to the rim of each cup.  Let sit for 3 – 4 minutes before transferring to pre-heated oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 400°F.  Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until muffins are just firm to the touch and a cake tester inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.  Do not overbake or muffins will be dry. Remove from oven and let muffins rest in pans for 5-7 minutes then gently remove from pan and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

(NOTE: As with all gluten-free recipes, ensure that all ingredients are gluten-free products)

Yield: 12 muffins

Gluten-Free Zucchini Date Muffins

These gluten-free muffins are moist with a tender crumb. Packed full of flavour, it's hard to tell they're gluten free.  Perfect for the lunch bag or coffee break.

Course Snack
Cuisine American
Servings 12
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbsp potato starch
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free oat flour
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1 1/4 tsp zanthan gum
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free quick oats
  • 5 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp ground chia seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp grated orange rind
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 - 4.5 oz container of puréed pears baby food
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk or soured milk*
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 cup grated zucchini (apx. 5 oz zucchini)
  • 3/4 cup chopped dates

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Prepare 12 muffin cups (each ½-cup capacity) by spraying each muffin cup with cooking spray or greasing individually.
  3. Combine flours, zanthan gum, quick oats, baking powder, soda, salt, ground chia seeds, spices, and grated orange rind together in a large bowl. Whisk ingredients well to combine. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Set aside.
  4. In separate medium-sized bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the brown sugar, eggs, coconut oil, vanilla, puréed pears baby food, milk*, and maple syrup. (*To sour milk, pour 1½ tsp vinegar into a ½ cup measuring cup. Fill with milk. Let stand for 5-10 minutes before stirring and using.) Whisk ingredients well. Stir in grated zucchini and chopped dates.
  5. Pour wet ingredients into well in dry ingredients. With large spoon, mix ingredients together just until dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Do not overmix.
  6. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling almost to the rim of each cup. Let sit for 3 – 4 minutes before transferring to pre-heated oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 400°F. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until muffins are just firm to the touch and a cake tester inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean. Do not overbake or muffins will be dry. Remove from oven and let muffins rest in pans for 5-7 minutes then gently remove from pan and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe Notes

NOTE: As with any gluten-free recipe, ensure that all ingredients are gluten-free products

 

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Gluten Free Zucchini Date Muffins
Gluten Free Zucchini Date Muffins

For other gluten-free muffin recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, follow these links:

Gluten-Free Pumpkin-Mincemeat Muffins
Deli-Style Gluten-Free Beet Muffins
Gluten-Free Blueberry Muffins
Deli-style Gluten-free Rhubarb Granola Muffins

Beef Pasta Casserole Recipe

Beef Pasta Casserole
Beef Pasta Casserole

I am a huge fan of batch cooking and preparing make-ahead meals to freeze for easy weeknight meal preparation.  I began batch cooking over 40 years ago when I moved away from my family home and began life on my own.  I went in search of cookbooks designed for cooking for one or two and didn’t find much on the market. What recipes I did find took ingredients that either weren’t available locally or the recipes called for sizes of ingredients that weren’t available in Canada.  I also soon discovered it really wasn’t much fun having to prepare a meal from scratch each night for one person.  That’s when I realized I didn’t need cookbooks with recipes sized down to one or two servings; I needed a freezer and I needed to batch cook make-ahead meals!

Beef Pasta Casserole
Beef Pasta Casserole

I currently have two freezers plus a deep freezer compartment in the bottom of the refrigerator and all are filled with make ahead-meals.  The entrées are a mix of very basic fare, like baked beans, pasta casseroles, and fish cakes, and more elaborate meals like fillings for vol-au-vents and crèpes for nights that call for something a little extra special.  Batch cooking means you still do the prep work but it is all done upfront at once and it eases the pressure of meal preparation on weeknights, especially on nights where one is late getting home from work.  So long as I have the makings for a salad in the fridge and some rolls, biscuits, or bread in the freezer, I can pull out a frozen entrée and have dinner on the table in 30 minutes or so. Clean-up is super easy, too, since there are no prep dishes or pots and pans to be washed, just the plate, glass, and utensils to be loaded into the dishwasher.

Beef Pasta Casserole
Beef Pasta Casserole

One of my standby casseroles is this beef pasta casserole.  It’s not hard to prepare and does not take any wild or weird ingredients. This makes a huge casserole so it’s great to take to potlucks or divide into meal-sized servings and frozen.  Use a large roaster or two 2-quart casseroles or, if you have a small household, divide the casserole up into small single serving casseroles or ramekins and freeze them.  I have a ton of ramekins as I find they are the perfect serving size for individual servings of casseroles.  I store these, unbaked, in large plastic freezer containers in the freezer.

Beef Pasta Casserole
Beef Pasta Casserole Ready for the Freezer

Easy steps make this casserole.  Brown the ground beef, drain, and set it aside.  Cook the pasta. Next, sauté the onion, garlic cloves, celery, green pepper, and mushrooms.  Then, combine all the liquid ingredients and canned tomatoes. Combine all the ingredients together along with some cheese and, voilà, that’s it!  Top the casserole with some extra cheese and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes.   If freezing the casserole, freeze it unbaked and without the cheese topping which is best added at the time of baking.

Serve with your favorite green salad and biscuits, rolls, or bread.

Beef Pasta Casserole
Beef Pasta Casserole

Beef Pasta Casserole

Ingredients:

1½ lbs lean ground beef
1½ – 2 tbsp vegetable oil

1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
2/3 cup onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup celery, chopped
¼ cup green pepper, chopped
¾ cup sliced button mushrooms

1 – 284ml can tomato soup
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ cup beef broth (homemade or commercial)
¼ cup tomato paste
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp basil pesto (homemade or commercial)
2 tsp Italian seasoning
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 – 398ml can diced tomatoes with juice
Salt and pepper, to taste

400g fusilli (regular or gluten-free), cooked according to package directions and drained (about 5 cups raw pasta)
2/3 cup shredded cheese of choice (e.g., cheddar, or a blend of cheeses)
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup shredded cheese of choice for topping casserole

Method:

In large frypan, heat the vegetable oil and brown the meat over medium-low heat. Drain. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In large saucepan, heat second amount of vegetable oil over medium heat.  Sauté the onion, garlic, celery, and green pepper for approximately 2 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3-4 minutes.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a large bowl or measuring cup, combine the tomato soup, Worcestershire sauce, beef broth, tomato paste, maple syrup, basil pesto, Italian seasoning, and ground ginger. Stir well.  Stir in canned tomatoes with juice. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

In large bowl or pot, combine the cooked pasta, meat, vegetables, liquid ingredients, 2/3 cup shredded cheese, and Parmesan cheese.  Stir gently to combine ingredients.  Transfer mixture to large greased roaster, two – 2-quart casseroles, or divide into individual serving-sized dishes such as ramekins.

Sprinkle casserole(s) with remaining ½ cup shredded cheese.  Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes to heat through.  Serve hot.  Casserole freezes well.

Yield:  12-14 servings

Beef Pasta Casserole

This tasty Beef Pasta Casserole is an easy-to-make weeknight casserole that combines ground beef, pasta, cheese, and a tomato-based sauce. Freezes well.

Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 12
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs lean ground beef
  • 1 1/2 - 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup celery, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green pepper, chopped
  • 3/4 cup sliced button mushrooms
  • 1 - 284ml can tomato soup
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp basil pesto
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 - 398ml can diced tomatoes with juice
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 400g fusilli (regular or gluten-free), cooked according to package directions and drained (about 5 cups raw pasta)
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheese of choice (e.g., cheddar, or a blend of cheeses)
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese of choice for topping casserole

Instructions

  1. In large frypan, heat the vegetable oil and brown the meat over medium-low heat. Drain. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  3. In large saucepan, heat second amount of vegetable oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion, garlic, celery, and green pepper for approximately 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl or measuring cup, combine the tomato soup, Worcestershire sauce, beef broth, tomato paste, maple syrup, basil pesto, Italian seasoning, and ground ginger. Stir well. Stir in canned tomatoes with juice. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  5. In large bowl or pot, combine the cooked pasta, meat, vegetables, liquid ingredients, 2/3 cup shredded cheese, and Parmesan cheese. Stir gently to combine ingredients. Transfer mixture to large greased roaster, two – 2-quart casseroles, or divide into individual serving-sized dishes such as ramekins.
  6. Sprinkle casserole(s) with remaining ½ cup shredded cheese. Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes to heat through. Serve hot. Casserole freezes well.

 

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Beef Pasta Casserole
Beef Pasta Casserole

Meal Planning – Week 4

Here is my suggested meal plan for the upcoming week. If you want to check out previous weeks’ meal plans, click here for the meal plan for week 1, here for week 2’s plan, and here for the meal plan for week 3.  I’ve provided a list of the main ingredients that, for the most part, would probably involve a shopping trip to the supermarket for most. However, as always, read each recipe thoroughly and carefully to create your own list as I have not listed what I consider to be “staple” items like regular milk, butter, eggs, flour, sugar, butter/shortening, oil, spices, etc.

This week, we’ll start off with a roast chicken or turkey.  I watch and get chickens or turkeys when they are on sale and I usually have a stock of 2-3 in the freezer.  They are great week starters because, yay, there are leftovers!!!! This means the leftovers can be transformed into other dishes such as turkey chowder and chicken (turkey) chow mein casserole.  And, if you are cooking a turkey (or a large chicken), don’t throw out the carcass as it makes great poultry stock!

Click on the green links below to access the recipes for this week’s meal plan.

MONDAY

Bran Muffins – A healthy batch of muffins to start off the week.

Shopping List:  Applesauce, molasses, natural bran, all-purpose and whole wheat flours, and raisins

Bran Muffins
Bran Muffins

Dinner:  Roast Chicken or Turkey with Mashed Potatoes, Favorite Side Vegetables, Turnip Puff Casserole, Stuffing/Dressing, Cranberry Sauce

Who can pass up a roast chicken or turkey dinner with all the fixins’!

Shopping List: Roasting Chicken or Turkey, Vegetables of Choice. For Turnip Puff Casserole – Rutabaga, applesauce, onion, parmesan and cheddar cheeses. For Stuffing – Potatoes, bread crumbs, onion, summer savory, celery, apple, and liquid chicken bouillon. For Cranberry Sauce – cranberries (fresh or frozen), apple, and orange juice.

Roast Turkey
Roast Turkey
Turnip Puff Casserole
Turnip Puff Casserole
Turkey and Dressing
Turkey and Dressing

Cranberry Sauce
Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce

 
Dessert:  Blueberry Buckle

A cake type dessert made even more tasty with blueberry sauce and vanilla ice cream.

Shopping List:  Blueberries (fresh or frozen), orange juice + general baking supplies

Blueberry Buckle
Blueberry Buckle with Vanilla Ice Cream Drizzled with Blueberry Sauce

TUESDAY

Make stock from the carcass of the turkey/chicken.

Homemade stock is so flavorful and versatile. You’ll find a multitude of uses for this stock.

Shopping List:  2 lbs fresh turkey pieces, onion, leek, carrots, celery, garlic, rutabaga, parsnips, mushrooms, cider vinegar, herbs and spices (rosemary, parsley, thyme, dill, sage, basil, coriander, summer savory, cardamom pods, cloves, allspice, star anise pod, peppercorns)

Homemade Turkey Stock
Homemade Turkey Stock

NOTE: Be sure to save 2 cups of cubed turkey/chicken for the turkey chowder for Wednesday’s dinner and 1 cup for the casserole for Thursday’s dinner.

Dinner:  Leftover Roast Chicken or Turkey with Potato Salad (add a green salad, if desired)

Don’t reserve potato salad just for summer picnics and barbeques.  It’s great any time of the year and is a fine accompaniment to cold chicken or turkey.

Shopping List: For the Potato Salad – potatoes (such as Yukon Gold or Reds), eggs, celery, onion, salad dressing (click here for my recipe), sour cream, sweet relish, and mustard).

Potato Salad
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s PEI Potato Salad

Dessert:  Leftover Blueberry Buckle

Blueberry Buckle

WEDNESDAY

Dinner:  Turkey Chowder

Leftover turkey gets transformed into this hearty and flavorful chowder.

Shopping List: Onion, celery, carrots, mushrooms, red pepper, summer savory, poultry stock, potatoes, milk, 1 – 10oz can creamed corn, and Parmesan cheese (Note: This recipe requires 2 cups of the cooked, cubed leftover turkey/chicken)

Homemade Chowder
Turkey Chowder

Dessert: Molasses Spice Cookies

A spicy and chewy cookie.  Great for the cookie jar!

Shopping List: Molasses and general baking supplies 

Spice Cookies
Molasses Spice Cookies

THURSDAY

 DinnerChicken Chow Mein Casserole served with a green salad and fresh biscuits

Leftover chicken (or turkey) gets re-purposed into this flavorful easy-to-prepare casserole.

Shopping list:  For the casserole: 1 – 10oz can Cream of Chicken Soup, Parmesan cheese, fresh mushrooms, red pepper, celery, onion, garlic, chicken broth, cashew pieces, sliced water chestnuts, and chow mein noodles. (Note: This recipe requires 1 cup of the cooked, cubed leftover turkey/chicken) For the salad: Lettuce and fresh vegetables of choice and dressing. For the biscuits: Whipping cream, milk, and standard baking supplies.

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole
Tea Biscuits
Tea Biscuits

Dessert: Old-fashioned Jam Squares

A real old favorite, these jam squares demand red jam like raspberry!

Shopping List: Raspberry Jam, Lemon, and general baking supplies

Jam Squares
Jam Squares

FRIDAY

 Dinner:  Seven Layer Dinner (aka Shipwreck Dinner)

By far, one of my most popular recipes and one of the most frequently searched for on my website. Dinner in one casserole! A simple meal but a mighty tasty one!

Shopping List: Ground beef, potatoes, onion, celery, parsnips, carrots, frozen peas, Minute Rice, and 1 – 10oz can tomato soup

Shipwreck Dinner
Seven Layer DInner

Dessert: Peanut Butter Cookies

This is an all-time favorite cookie.

Shopping List: Peanut butter + general baking supplies

Peanut Butter Cookies

NOTE:  Soak the yellow-eyed beans overnight tonight in preparation for making the Maple Syrup Baked Beans for tomorrow night’s dinner.

Soaking the Dried Beans

SATURDAY

 Dinner: Maple Syrup Baked Beans with Homemade White Bread

A Saturday night tradition in many Maritime homes.  These beans freeze great if there are any leftovers.

Shopping List: For the Baked Beans – 1 – 1lb bag yellow eye beans, garlic, dry mustard, liquid chicken bouillon, tomato paste, cider vinegar, pure maple syrup, molasses, BBQ sauce, and onion.  For White Bread: Yeast, milk, flour and general baking supplies.

Baked Beans

 
 
White Bread
Homemade White Bread

Dessert: Apple-Maple Bread Pudding with Maple Sauce

This bread pudding is such a treat, especially when flavored with maple liqueur that is made right here in PEI by Deep Roots Distillery in Warren Grove, just outside Charlottetown.

Shopping List:  For Pudding: 1 – 1lb loaf of soft French bread, whole milk, blend/cream, baking apples, maple liqueur, and raisins. For Sauce: Maple syrup and maple liqueur.

Apple-Maple Bread Pudding

SUNDAY

 Sunday Breakfast: Special Treat – Irish Cream French Toast, a great way to use some of the homemade bread from yesterday

Irish Cream jazzes up traditional French toast. A lovely weekend treat.

Shopping List: Irish Cream Liqueur (click here for my recipe), orange juice, eggs

Irish Cream French Toast
Irish Cream French Toast

DinnerPork Chops with Bread Stuffing and Creamy Mushroom Sauce; serve with baked potato and medley of favorite steamed vegetables

This is such a flavorful way to present pork chops. Yummy.

Shopping List: Pork Chops (bone-in), bread crumbs, onion, summer savory, celery, apple, liquid chicken bouillon, 1 – 10oz can mushroom soup

Pork Chops with Bread Stuffing and Creamy Mushroom Sauce
Pork Chops with Bread Stuffing and Creamy Mushroom Sauce

Dessert: Leftover Apple-Maple Bread Pudding with Maple Sauce

Maple Sauce on Apple-Maple Bread Pudding

Week 1 Menu Plan
Week 2 Menu Plan
Week 3 Menu Plan

So, there you have it! A weekly menu that makes full use of a roasted turkey or large roasted chicken.

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole Recipe

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole
Chicken Chow Mein Casserole

Casserole recipes are useful for the home cook’s meal planning. They are a convenient entrée for a dinner meal, can be prepared ahead of time, are often a great way to use leftovers and re-purpose them into a new entrée, and they can stretch the food dollar.  My Chicken Chow Mein Casserole is one that fits that bill nicely.

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole
Chicken Chow Mein Casserole

This casserole will easily feed four people and there might be some left over for someone’s lunch the next day! This recipe calls for cooked chicken but I often substitute turkey if I have some left over from a roasted turkey.  All it takes is one cup cubed chicken which is what one good-sized chicken breast will yield. So, when you think about it – if you were to serve chicken breasts for a family of four, you would need to buy four chicken breasts for a meal. However, you can make this casserole with one good-sized chicken breast and still feed four people (see what I mean about extending the food dollar).

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole
Chicken Chow Mein Casserole

This recipe does not take a lot of costly ingredients which makes it economical to make. Apart from the chicken breast, only celery, onion, mushrooms, a tin of cream of chicken soup, a bit of chicken broth, some garlic, red pepper, a few sliced water chestnuts (which are optional and I buy when they are on sale), some cashew pieces, and chow mein noodles are required as ingredients.

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole
Chicken Chow Mein Casserole

For the chicken, you can use leftover chicken (or turkey) from a roasted foul, poach a chicken breast, or even use some meat from a rotisserie chicken from the supermarket.  The casserole itself is not difficult to prepare. Sauté the vegetables, open a can of soup, combine all the ingredients into a casserole, and bake in the oven.

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole
Chicken Chow Mein Casserole

This Chicken Chow Mein Casserole can be made several hours ahead, or even the night before, so it’s ready to pop into the oven when you get home from work.

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole
Chicken Chow Mein Casserole

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked chicken, cubed

3 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery
¼ cup diced red pepper
2½ oz sliced mushrooms (about ¾ cup)

½ cup chicken broth
1 – 284ml tin Cream of Chicken Soup
1/8 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp Parmesan cheese

½ cup cashew pieces, chopped
2½ oz (72 g) sliced water chestnuts, drained and rinsed

2½ oz chow mein noodles (reserve 1 oz for casserole topping)

Method:

Grease 1½ quart casserole and set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat.  Sauté garlic, onion, celery, red pepper, and mushrooms, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes, just until the onions are transparent.

Combine the chicken broth and soup together in bowl or large measuring cup.  Stir in the ground ginger and Parmesan cheese. Transfer the sautéed vegetables to large bowl and add the chicken, soup mixture, cashew pieces, and water chestnuts. Mix together.  Carefully fold in 1½ oz chow mein noodles.  Transfer mixture to prepared casserole and sprinkle with remaining 1 oz chow mein noodles. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until casserole is hot and bubbly.

Yield:  Apx. 4 servings

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole

An easy-to-prepare flavorful casserole that makes great use of leftover chicken.
Course Main Course
Servings 4
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked chicken, cubed
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup diced red pepper
  • 2.5 oz sliced mushrooms (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 284ml tin Cream of Chicken Soup
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup cashew pieces, chopped
  • 2 1/2 oz sliced water chestnuts, drained and rinsed
  • 2.5 oz chow mein noodles (reserve 1 oz for casserole topping)

Instructions

  1. Grease 1½ quart casserole and set aside. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Melt butter in skillet over medium heat. Sauté garlic, onion, celery, red pepper, and mushrooms, stirring constantly, for 3-4 minutes, just until the onions are transparent.

  3. Combine the chicken broth and soup together in bowl or large measuring cup. Stir in the ground ginger and Parmesan cheese. Transfer the sautéed vegetables to large bowl and add the chicken, soup mixture, cashew pieces, and water chestnuts. Mix together. Carefully fold in 1½ oz chow mein noodles. Transfer mixture to prepared casserole and sprinkle with remaining 1 oz chow mein noodles.
  4. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until casserole is hot and bubbly.

 

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Chicken Chow Mein Casserole
Chicken Chow Mein Casserole
Chicken Chow Mein Casserole
Chicken Chow Mein Casserole

Meal Planning – Week 3

A weekly meal plan is always useful to have. It helps with shopping, meal preparation, healthy eating, meal variety, and can save on the grocery bill. Here is my suggested meal plan for the upcoming week. This is the menu for Week 3.  Click Week 1 and Week 2 to access menus for those weeks. The Week 1 posting also includes information on meal planning in general.

I’ve provided a list of the main ingredients that, for the most part, would probably involve a shopping trip to the supermarket for most. However, as always, read each recipe thoroughly and carefully to create your own list as I have not listed what I consider to be “staple” items like regular milk, butter, eggs, flour, sugar, butter/shortening, oil, spices, etc.

Click on the green hotlinks to access the recipes.

MONDAY

Glazed Lemon Pecan Sweet Bread – This is a lovely treat to start off the week. Tuck it in to the lunch bags for a treat at break.

Shopping List: Lemon, pecans

Glazed Lemon Pecan Sweet Bread

Dinner:  Rich and Hearty Goulash Soup with Whole Wheat Biscuits

This soup is the full meal deal – very filling and flavorful.

Shopping List: For the Soup – Ground beef, onion, celery, carrots, rutabaga, parsnip, potatoes, zucchini, garlic, tomato paste, canned diced tomatoes, ketchup, beef stock (click here for my recipe), red wine vinegar. For the Biscuits – All purpose and whole wheat flours, buttermilk

Goulash Soup
Rich and Hearty Goulash Soup

There’s nothing like a wholesome homemade biscuit and these whole wheat biscuits go really well with the Goulash Soup.

Whole Wheat Biscuits
Whole Wheat Biscuits

Dessert: Apple Crisp

No matter the season, this old faithful dessert will always meet with satisfaction. Pure comfort food at its best!

Shopping List: Apples (e.g., any combo of Cortland, Honeycrisp, Humes, Gingergold), rolled oats, pecans, lemon juice

Apple Crisp
Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream

TUESDAY

Dinner:  Pork Loin Roast with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic; serve with Potato Patties and medley of roasted vegetables of choice

Black garlic is not all that common yet, here on PEI, the garlic grower at Eureka Garlic just outside Kensington produces black garlic. Click here to read the story I wrote on Eureka Garlic’s black garlic.  Not at all the taste you might think – in fact, no garlic flavor at all. Its transformation is more of a cross between a fig and a prune. Goes particularly well with pork.

Shopping List: For Pork Loin Roast – Pork rib roast, garlic, soya sauce, white wine vinegar, shallots, pomegranate molasses, chicken stock, black garlic, balsamic vinegar, red wine, orange juice. For Potato Patties – Potatoes, sour cream chicken bouillon, breadcrumbs.

Pork Loin
Pork Loin Roast with Pomegranate, Red Wine, and Black Garlic Sauce served with Potato Croquettes and Roasted Root Vegetables

These potato patties are such an incredibly tasty way to serve potatoes and they freeze well, too!

PEI Potato Patties
PEI Potato Patties

Dessert:  Date Squares

Date Squares, the perennial favorite with many! These are a yummy treat and they freeze well, too.

Shopping List: Dates, rolled oats, orange juice

Date Squares
Date Squares (aka Matrimonial Squares)

WEDNESDAY

Dinner:  Savory Cottage Pie

Lovely winter time treat, these little pies are packed full of flavor!

Shopping List: Ground beef, onion, carrots, parsnip, celery, green pepper, garlic, mushrooms, tomato paste, tomato sauce, ketchup, canned diced tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, beef broth, molasses, frozen peas and corn, potatoes, grated cheddar cheese

cottage pie
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Cottage Pie

Dessert: Butter Tarts

When it comes to food, it doesn’t get any more Canadian than these sweet butter tarts! A treat for sure, eh!

Butter Tarts
Butter Tarts

Shopping List: Pie Pastry, general baking supplies + maple syrup, milk/blend/cream 
Butter Tarts

THURSDAY

DinnerMussel Chowder served with Pan Rolls

This chowder is incredibly flavorful. They’ll ask for seconds on this one!

Shopping list: For Chowder:  2 lbs PEI mussels, onion, garlic, white wine, celery, carrots, potatoes, chicken broth, whole milk (or evaporated milk); For Pan Rolls: Yeast + standard baking supplies

PEI Mussel Chowder Paired with Upstreet Brewing Company's Commons Czech Style Pilsner
PEI Mussel Chowder Paired with Upstreet Brewing Company’s Commons Czech Style Pilsner

Nothing better with chowder than fresh homemade rolls, still warm from the oven! Bring on the butter!

Pan Rolls
Pan Rolls

Dessert: Squash Pie

Pick up a butternut squash and make this delectable pie – it’s even better than pumpkin pie and has a deeper flavor. Don’t reserve this recipe just for the autumn – it’s good any time of the year!

Shopping List:  1½ – 1¾ lb butternut squash, pastry for 10” single crust pie, evaporated milk, whipping cream

Squash Pie
Squash Pies

FRIDAY

 Dinner:  Chicken and Mushroom Crepes with Cheese Sauce; serve with favorite green salad

A real special Friday night dinner. These crepes are so tasty with their cheesy sauce!

Shopping List: For crepes – 2 cups cubed cooked chicken, chicken stock, cheese mix (e.g., mozzarella, provolone and parmesan), celery, mushrooms; For salad – lettuce and favorite salad fixings and dressing.

Chicken and Mushroom Crepes with Cheese Sauce
Chicken and Mushroom Crepes with Cheese Sauce

Dessert: Leftover Squash Pie

Squash Pie
Squash Pie

SATURDAY

Dinner: Asparagus Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Rice

Fresh asparagus works best in this chicken dish.  Super yummy and looks great when it is sliced with the rings of the asparagus being very showy!

Shopping List: Boneless skinless chicken breasts, Boursin cheese, fresh asparagus spears, prosciutto, parmesan cheese, rice.

Asparagus
Asparagus-Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Dessert: Blueberry Bread Pudding with Grand Marnier Sauce

Oh là-là, how many different ways can you say “yummy”? This moist and flavorful bread pudding will have them calling for seconds!

Shopping List:  For Pudding: 1 – 1lb loaf of soft French bread, whole milk, maple syrup, 2 cups high-bush blueberries (fresh or frozen). For Sauce: Grand Marnier, corn syrup

Blueberry Bread Pudding
Blueberry Bread Pudding

SUNDAY

 Sunday Breakfast: Special Treat – Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls
Cinnamon Buns

DinnerCranberry and Ginger Sauced Pork Chops; serve with baked potato and medley of favorite steamed vegetables

Jazz up pork chops with a tasty and colorful cranberry and ginger sauce.

Shopping List: Pork Chops, chicken broth, orange juice, balsamic vinegar, cranberry preserve/jam, mustard, onion

Pork Chops
Cranberry and Ginger Sauced Pork Chops

Dessert: Leftover Blueberry Bread Pudding

Bread Pudding
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Blueberry Bread Pudding

I hope you have found some interesting recipes from my food blog to try this week!

For other weekly meal plans from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

Week 1 Meal Plan

Week 2 Meal Plan

 

My Island Bistro Kitchen Celebrates 6th Blogiversary!

My Island Bistro Kitchen's 6th Blogiversary Mini Cakes
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s 6th Blogiversary Mini Cakes

Six years ago today, I began my food blog called My Island Bistro Kitchen.  Six years later and I have created and published many recipes and written many stories about local food producers here on PEI.

Every anniversary deserves some kind of celebratory cake or cupcakes. For this 6th blogiversary, I have opted to go with mini cakes.  Positioned on tiny individual pedestal stands, they each have their own prominence.

Mini Cake
Mini Cake

A touch of whimsy, these little cakes are great for desserts, afternoon teas, weddings, showers, or just about any event imaginable.

A trio of Mini Cakes
A trio of Mini Cakes

Displays of clusters of mini cakes always signify a celebration of some kind!

Thanks for following along on my culinary pursuits!

 

 

MEAL PLANNING – WEEK 2

Here is my suggested meal plan for the upcoming week. This is the Week 2 menu.  You can access the meal plans for Week 1 by clicking here and for Week 3 here.

I am a big fan of meal planning – it takes some coordination and effort upfront but the payoff is great. Find tested and reliable recipes with ingredients you know your family will like, read through the recipes to see what’s involved in their preparation and how long it will take to prepare them, make the shopping list, shop for the ingredients, and set aside the time to make the recipes. If you have helpers in the household, assign them tasks to help with the preparation.

Rather than spend time aimlessly perusing recipes in books or magazines or searching through the internet for a recipe that might pique your interest, I recommend first thinking about what main ingredient might appeal to you – is it ham, beef, poultry, fish, pasta, vegetables, etc. Are you looking for a casserole, a pot pie, or a main entrée, a one-time meal recipe or one that leftovers could be frozen for another meal or transformed into another dish altogether? Once you narrow down what you are aiming for, your search for the recipe will be more focused and concentrated and you will spend less time on the recipe search and more time productively spent actually making the dish.

To help you with that search, I hope you find some, or all, of the following recipes of interest and ones you will add to your weekly meal plan.

I’ve provided a list of the main ingredients that, for the most part, would probably involve a shopping trip to the supermarket for most. However, as always, read each recipe thoroughly and carefully to create your own personalized list as I have not listed what I consider to be “staple” items like regular milk, butter, eggs, flour, sugar, butter/shortening, oil, spices, etc.

Make sure you read through the menu suggestions for the entire week as some require some leftover meat or gravy, etc., from a previous day’s dinner so you will need to know what amounts of ingredients need to be set aside for a subsequent day’s meal.

Click on the green hotlinks to access the recipes.

MONDAY

GranolaMy recipe for granola is nut free.  So tasty, it’s actually yummy eaten as a trail mix treat, too! 

Granola
The Bistro’s Great Nut-Free Granola

Best Zucchini Granola Muffins – These are great breakfast or coffee break muffins and they freeze very well.  Great treat to start off the week!

Shopping List: Granola (click here for my recipe), zucchini, applesauce

Zucchini Granola Muffins
Zucchini Granola Muffins

Dinner:  Roast Beef, Potato Patties, Turnip Puff Casserole

A roast beef dinner is so tasty (and the house smells so great when the beef is roasting).  Be sure to save some of the beef and make some gravy for the beef pot pies for Tuesday night’s dinner!

The potato patties are a change from traditional mashed or boiled potatoes and these are super tasty.  Turnip goes particularly well with beef and is transformed into a lovely flavorful casserole to serve as a side dish. Jazzes up a roast beef dinner for sure!

Shopping List: Roast of beef, cut of choice. For Potato Patties – Potatoes, sour cream chicken bouillon, breadcrumbs. For Turnip Puff Casserole – Rutabaga, applesauce, onion, parmesan and cheddar cheeses.

PEI Bistro-style Potato Patties
PEI Bistro-style Potato Patties

 Turnip Puff Casserole

Turnip Puff Casserole

Dessert: Rustic Apple Pie

Who can say no to a homemade apple pie!  Add a scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream to make this an even more special treat!

Shopping List: Apples, pie pastry for double-crust pie + enough for a single crust pie (needed for tomorrow’s Beef Pot Pie)

Apple Pie
Rustic Apple Pie

TUESDAY

Dinner:  Beef Pot Pie – This is a great way to use up leftover roast beef and gravy from Monday night’s dinner.

Sometimes, depending on the size of roast, after a couple of days of leftover sliced cold roast beef, it can be a little boring, shall we say.  That’s why it’s important to find other uses for the leftover roast beef, like this Beef Pot Pie, so it seems like a brand new idea for dinner!

Shopping List: Rutabaga, carrots, potatoes, onion, mushrooms, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, red wine summer savory, frozen peas and corn, fresh parsley, pastry for single crust pie

Beef Pot Pie
Beef Pot Pie

Dessert:  Leftover Apple Pie

Apple Pie
Apple Pie

WEDNESDAY

Dinner:  Potato Leek Soup with Whole Wheat Biscuits

Sometimes you just need a plain old-fashioned silky smooth cream soup and this Potato Leek Soup fits that bill nicely.  Serve it with some warm homemade whole wheat biscuits, with a slather of butter, of course!

Shopping List: For Soup – Potatoes, leek, celery, onion, garlic, chicken/turkey stock, milk, white cheese blend (e.g., mozzarella, provolone, parmesan) For Biscuits – All purpose and whole wheat flours, buttermilk

Potato Leek Soup
Potato Leek Soup

 

Whole Wheat Biscuits
Whole Wheat Biscuits

Dessert: Chocolate Drop Cookies

These are a great chocolate cookie and sure to find their way into the heart of any chocolate lover.

Shopping List: General baking supplies + cocoa

  Chocolate Drop Cookies

Chocolate Drop Cookies

THURSDAY

Dinner:  Chili Con Carne served with Pan Rolls

This chili is packed full of flavorful ingredients.  While I think it’s perfect any time of the year, it’s especially inviting on cold winter days!  Make a batch of homemade pan rolls to accompany this chili.

Shopping List: For Chili – Ground beef, onion, green pepper, celery, garlic, 1 – 28oz can diced tomatoes, 2 – 14oz cans red kidney beans, 1 – 10oz can tomato soup, 1 – 5.5oz can tomato paste, chili powder, balsamic vinegar, liquid beef bouillon, mushrooms. For Pan Rolls – Yeast + standard baking supplies

Chili
Homemade Chili

 

Pan Rolls
Pan Rolls

Dessert: Creamy Coconut Rice Pudding

Baked rice pudding is a comfort food and many will remember their mothers and grandmothers making this treat. I’ve jazzed up my recipe with coconut milk and raisins that have had a little “nip” of amaretto!

Shopping List: Arborio rice, amaretto, raisins, coconut milk, maple syrup, shredded coconut

Rice Pudding
Creamy Coconut Rice Pudding

FRIDAY

 Dinner:  Honey Garlic Spare Ribs, Twice-baked Potatoes, favorite side vegetable

Nothing beats honey and garlic to add some life to spare ribs!  These ribs can be served with rice or choice of potato but my favorite is to add a twice-baked potato to the plate. Super yummy.

Shopping List: For Spare Ribs – Ribs, apple juice, honey, soya sauce, garlic, onion. For Twice-baked Potatoes – Baking potatoes such as Russet variety, sour cream, whole milk or cream, liquid chicken bouillon, garlic, cheddar and parmesan cheeses

Garlic Spareribs
Garlic Spareribs served with Turnip Casserole and Baked Potato

 

Stuffed Baked Potato
Twice-baked Potato

Dessert: Jelly Roll

Lovely sponge cake rolled with red jam or jelly. Yes, this is indeed an old favorite with many.

Shopping List:  Cake and pastry flour, favorite red jam or jelly

Jelly Roll

SATURDAY

 Dinner: Moussaka with green salad

While I have made Moussaka for years, recent visits to Greek islands reignited my love for this dish.  As a nod to my Prince Edward Island heritage, my version uses potatoes instead of the traditional eggplant. A little time-consuming to make but the end result is so worth it!

Shopping List: For Moussaka – Ground beef, onion, celery, garlic, 14-oz can crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, beef broth, russet potatoes, milk, Gouda cheese, breadcrumbs. For green salad – favorite lettuce and salad fixings of choice, dressing.

Moussaka
Moussaka

Dessert: Vintage Tomato Soup Cake

I grew up with this cake being frequently made.  Bet you can’t tell there is a can of tomato soup in it!

Shopping List:  Tomato soup, molasses

Tomato Soup Cake
Tomato Soup Cake

SUNDAY

 Sunday Breakfast: Special Treat – Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

Sunday mornings call for something just a little more special than you might make on busy weekday mornings.  Try these Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes with maple syrup or a rich blueberry sauce for double the blueberry flavor.

Shopping List:  Buttermilk, blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Blueberry Pancakes

DinnerLeftover Moussaka

Moussaka
Moussaka

Dessert: Leftover Vintage Tomato Soup Cake

Tomato Soup Cake
Tomato Soup Cake

So, there you have it – the Week 2 Meal Planning Menu from My Island Bistro Kitchen.

For other meal plans from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

Week 1 Meal Plan

Week 3 Meal Plan

Gluten-free Apple Pie

I earlier posted my recipe for Rustic Apple Pie.  This apple pie recipe differs from that one in two ways. First, this one is gluten free. Yes, even the lovely tender, flaky crust is gluten free.  Second, the filling is pre-cooked before being added to the pie.

Gluten-free Apple Pie
Gluten-free Apple Pie

For those following a gluten-free diet, they know how difficult it can sometimes be to find a pie pastry that closely resembles a wheat flour version.  I love making pastry and enjoy a lot of quiches and pies.  It pains me that those on a gluten-free diet cannot enjoy the same foods simply because they don’t have a good gluten-free pastry recipe.  So, I have developed this pie pastry recipe that, in my opinion, rivals any gluten version (and, in fact, is better than many I have been served).  When I first started developing gluten-free pastry, I figured it would not roll out, would crumble into bits, be hard as a rock, and/or would not transfer, in one piece, to the pie plate. However, I have adapted the basic pastry recipe I have been using for years and I could not be more pleased with it.  Serve this pastry to someone not on a gluten-free diet and I think they would be hard-pressed to know it’s gluten free!

Gluten-free Apple Pie
Gluten-free Apple Pie

So, let’s start with some hints and tips on making the pastry, many of which apply to any pastry, gluten or gluten free.

The Pastry

First, all ingredients must be cold – super cold.  Yes, even the flour should be chilled for 30-40 minutes in the refrigerator. I use a one-to-one gluten-free flour in this recipe.  I have been having great success with Bob’s Red Mills 1-to-1 gluten-free flour in my baking and find it has better flavor than gluten-free all-purpose flour and has the texture in baked goods more closely resembling a wheat-based flour.

There are various schools of thought on the type of fat to use in pastry — butter, lard, or shortening. Using all butter in pastry will give a wonderful flavor and a lovely tanned crust. It can, however, be a bit finnicky to work with because it softens very easy and can quickly be over-blended with the flour. If overworked, a tough crust is likely. While lard is easy to work with and will give layers of flakiness in the pastry, it lacks the flavour that butter gives.  Using shortening will yield a nice tender crust but, like lard, has little flavor.  As with butter, shortening softens extremely easy as it is being worked with so, if the dough is overworked, it will yield a tough crust.

I find the best combination of fats to provide flakiness, tenderness, flavour, and structure to pastry is to use one part lard and one part butter.  I coarsely chop/cube the butter and lard into the flour then take my pastry cutter and blend the fats to the consistency of large peas.  There is no need to mash it or blend it finely.

For liquid, I combine vinegar, egg, and water to equal 2/3 cup – all ingredients to be super cold.  Not all of this liquid may be required. It’s important to use only enough of the liquid that the dry ingredients are incorporated and will cling together and the dough forms a ball.  Don’t add too much liquid or you will end up with a gummy mess that will yield a tough pastry. I don’t use a food processor to make the pastry as I find it is too easy to overprocess the dough. Mixing the pastry by hand gives more control and, I find, a flakier crust.

Gluten-free pastry has a different texture and consistency than wheat-based pastry. The most noticeable difference is the lack of elasticity that wheat-based pastry has from the gluten in it. To ensure the safe transferal of pastry from counter to pie plate in one piece, I recommend rolling out the pastry between two sheets of parchment paper.  Once the pastry has been rolled to the desired thickness, generally somewhere between 1/16” about 1/8” thickness, simply remove the top sheet of parchment, slide your hand under the bottom sheet and carefully lift the pastry, flip it over into the pie plate, and peel off the parchment paper. A tip is to lightly flour the bottom piece of parchment and the top of the pastry.  This will make the task of peeling off the parchment paper easier. Fit the dough snugly into the plate and trim pastry flush with pie plate edge. I don’t like thick pie crusts so you’ll notice, from the photos, that I roll my pastry quite thin.  That’s a matter of personal preference so, if you like a thicker crust, by all means, go ahead and roll the pastry a little bit thicker.

Gluten-free Apple Pie
Gluten-free Apple Pie

Roll the pastry for the top crust the same as for the bottom crust but make sure there is no wrinkle in the parchment paper as this will form a wrinkle imprint in the pastry as the pastry is being rolled out.  This is less of a concern for the bottom pastry crust but, for presentation purposes, is an issue for the top crust.  For this reason, I recommend starting with a new piece of parchment when rolling out the top crust pastry.

Don’t forget to dampen the outside rim of the bottom pie pastry before placing the top pastry over the filling.  The pastry edge needs to be dampened lightly with water which will seal the two crusts together.

Gluten-free Apple Pie
Gluten-free Apple Pie

The Filling

My traditional apple pie recipe calls for uncooked apples mixed with spices and sugar.  That version will yield a pie where the layers of apples stay intact and totally visible once the pie is baked and sliced.  For this apple pie recipe, however, I am pre-cooking the apples by sautéing them in butter, then mixing in the sugar, spices, and cornstarch while they sauté. The result is a filling that resembles the consistency of a can of apple pie filling (only this homemade version is, in my opinion, much better!).

Gluten-free Apple Pie
Gluten-free Apple Pie

There are advantages to this method of making the filling. First, juices from the apples are released during the sautéing process and are thickened before going in to the pie. I find there is less chance of the pie boiling out significantly because the juices have already been released and thickened before going into the pie. Second, it is easier to arrange the filling in the pie because the apples have softened a bit.  Whereas for raw apples there can be gaps in the filling, there are generally none with a pre-cooked filling.

The trick to this method is to not overcook the apples because, remember, they will continue to cook as the pie bakes.  You still want to be able to see the apples (not applesauce) in the filling.  For this reason, it’s important to use apples that have a crisp, firm texture so they can stand up to the sautéing and baking and still hold shape when the pie is sliced.  My favorites are Spartans, Cortland, Pippins, Honeycrisp, and Lobo. I usually use a combination of at least three (and sometimes more) different varieties. Using a mix of apple varieties will give better flavor, especially if a blend of tart and sweet apples is used.  Slice the apples at least ¼” thick for this filling.

I use mostly brown sugar combined with a small amount of granulated sugar for this recipe.  Brown sugar will give a richer flavor and deeper color to the filling.  Choosing spices for an apple pie filling is always subjective.  Some use just cinnamon while others will add nutmeg.  I like a blend of spices in my apple pies so have chosen cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice for this recipe.  A splash of brandy (optional) will also enhance the flavor of the pie but, note, just a small splash! Either flour or cornstarch can be used to thicken the filling. Cornstarch, however, will tend to yield a more clear filling than will flour.

Gluten-free Apple Pie
Gluten-free Apple Pie

Preparing the Pie for the Oven

After the top pie pastry has been placed over the filling, the edges of the top and bottom pastries need to be pressed together to seal in the filling. There are various ways the pie edges can be joined. I tend to go with the simple pressing of the bottom and top pastry with the tines of a fork. I think this is also the easiest method to ensure the pie cuts out with the edges intact. Other methods, such as crimping, are raised up and can burn more quickly during baking and are also at risk of breaking off as the pie is cut.

Gluten-free Apple Pie
Gluten-free Apple Pie

It’s important that the top pie pastry be vented for baking. Otherwise, the crusts may be soggy from too much steam trapped in the pie.  It may also cause the top crust to leave the filling and puff up, leaving a hollow space between crust and filling.  This will cause the crust to break when the pie is sliced and, for presentation purposes, the pie slice will not be visually pleasing when plated.

Use a sharp-tipped paring knife to cut criss-crosses in the pie pastry starting in the center with a slightly large “X” and then adding smaller ones all around the circumference of the pie.  I also use the tines of a fork to prick the pie pastry in various places in the top crust pastry for added venting.

Brushing a very light coating of an egg-milk wash on the top crust will yield a crust with more “tan”.  A sprinkle of granulated sugar may also be added but note this may cause the top crust to brown fast and before the pie is baked.  If this happens, tent the pie loosely with tin foil.

I recommend placing the pie in the refrigerator for approximately 30 minutes or so before baking.  This will chill the pastry and reduce chance of it shrinking significantly while baking.

Fruit pies have a tendency to boil out during baking, even if they are well vented and the filling pre-cooked, so I recommend placing the pie on a tinfoil-lined rimmed baking sheet.  If the pie does boil out, you won’t be faced with an oven cleaning job.

Baking the Pie

Preheat the oven to 425°F and bake the pie at this temperature for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 375°F and bake for approximately 40 minutes or until the crust is lightly tanned and juice from the pie is bubbling slightly through vented holes.

Transfer the pie to a cooling rack and allow it cool completely before cutting.  This allows the filling to settle so it stays intact (instead of running) when the pie is cut.

Serving the Pie

This pie benefits from a few hours of refrigeration after it has cooled completely at room temperature.  The chilled pie is easier to cut and the filling stays in place.

Gluten-free Apple Pie
Gluten-free Apple Pie

The most common ways to serve apple pie are plain, with cheddar cheese, or with vanilla ice cream.

Gluten-free Apple Pie
Gluten-free Apple Pie

This gluten-free apple pie is a tasty treat indeed!

Gluten-free Apple Pie

Gluten-free Apple Pie

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Gluten-free Apple Pie

Filling

Ingredients:
2/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp salt
3 tbsp cornstarch

2-3 tbsp butter

2½ lbs apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into ¼” thick slices (about 8 medium-large sized apples)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp brandy (optional)

Method:
In small bowl, whisk together the brown and white sugars, spices, salt, and cornstarch.  Set aside.

Prepare apples and sprinkle with lemon juice and brandy (optional).  With large wooden spoon, gently toss apples to coat with the lemon juice and brandy.

In large saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium low and add the apples.  Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring gently and frequently.

Stir in the sugar-spice-cornstarch mixture.  Cook for 4 minutes, stirring gently and frequently.  Remove from heat and cool filling completely.

While filling is cooling, prepare the pastry.

Pastry for 1 double-crusted 9” pie

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

¼ cup cold butter (76g)
¼ cup cold lard (76g)

1 large egg (reserve apx 1 tsp of the yolk for the egg wash)
1 tsp white vinegar
Enough water to make 2/3 cup liquid

1-2 tsp milk
Method:

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.  Add only enough water that the dough clings together and can be formed into a ball.

Divide the dough in half.  Form disk shapes with each piece. Place disks in the refrigerator for about 10-12 minutes to chill. Remove one disk from the refrigerator and place between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll pastry to desired thickness, generally between 1/16”and 1/8” thickness. Peel the top piece of parchment from the rolled out pastry. Slide hand under parchment that has the rolled pastry and carefully flip it into a 9” pie plate that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray or greased.  Cut off excess dough so pastry is flush with the pie plate edge.  Place pie shell in refrigerator for 15-20 minutes to chill. Remove second disk of pastry from refrigerator.

Prepare pastry for the top crust in the same manner as for the bottom crust.  Remove pie shell from refrigerator and arrange cooled pie filling in prepared cold shell. Brush edges of bottom crust along pie plate edge with a bit of water to moisten. Transfer pastry to the top of pie filling. Trim excess pastry from the pie plate edge.  Press the edge of the pastry all around the pie plate rim with tines of fork to adhere top crust to bottom crust.  Cut slits in top of pie pastry to allow steam to escape as pie bakes. For additional venting, prick the pie in several places with tines of a fork.

In small bowl, lightly beat the reserved egg yolk with 1-2 tsp milk.  With a pastry brush, lightly brush the pie with the egg-milk mixture.  Sprinkle with granulated sugar.

Place pie in refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow filling to settle and to chill pastry to reduce shrinkage while it bakes.

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Transfer pie to oven. Bake at 425°F for 10 minutes then reduce heat to 375°F. Bake for another 40 minutes then test with fork inserted into slit in center of pie to determine if apples are cooked. Apples should be fork-tender when pie is done. If not done, return pie to oven and check every 5 minutes until apples are fork tender.  If pie browns too quickly before it is cooked, loosely tent pie with tin foil.  Remove pie from oven and transfer to cooling rack.

Yield:  1 – 9” pie (apx. 6 servings)

Gluten-free Apple Pie

A lightly spiced cooked apple pie filling sandwiched between a tender, flaky, and flavorful gluten-free pie crust.

Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 6
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2-3 tbsp butter
  • 2 1/2 lbs apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/4" thick slices (about 8 medium-large sized apples)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp brandy (optional)

Gluten-Free Pastry for 1 double-crusted 9" pie

  • 2 cups (276g) gluten-free 1-to-1 flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (76g) cold butter
  • 1/4 cup (76g) cold lard
  • 1 large egg (reserve apx 1 tsp of the yolk for the egg wash)
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • Enough cold water to make 2/3 cup liquid
  • 1-2 tsp milk

Instructions

  1. Filling:  In small bowl, whisk together the brown and white sugars, spices, salt, and cornstarch. Set aside.

  2. Prepare apples and sprinkle with lemon juice and brandy (optional). With large wooden spoon, gently toss apples to coat with the lemon juice and brandy.
  3. In large saucepan, melt butter over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and add the apples. Sauté for 5 minutes, stirring gently and frequently.
  4. Stir in the sugar-spice-cornstarch mixture. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring gently and frequently. Remove from heat and cool filling completely.

  5. While filling is cooling, prepare the pastry.

Gluten-free Pastry for 1 Double-crusted Pie

  1. 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. Add only enough water that the dough clings together and can be formed into a ball.
  3. Divide the dough in half. Form disk shapes with each piece. Place disks in the refrigerator for about 10-12 minutes to chill. Remove one disk from the refrigerator and place between two sheets of parchment paper. Roll pastry to desired thickness, generally between 1/16”and 1/8” thickness. Peel the top piece of parchment from the rolled out pastry. Slide hand under parchment that has the rolled pastry and carefully flip it into a 9” pie plate that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray or greased. Cut off excess dough so pastry is flush with the pie plate edge. Place pie shell in refrigerator for 15-20 minutes to chill. Remove second disk of pastry from refrigerator.
  4. Prepare pastry for the top crust in the same manner as for the bottom crust. Remove pie shell from refrigerator and arrange cooled pie filling in prepared cold shell. Brush edges of bottom crust along pie plate edge with a bit of water to moisten. Transfer pastry to the top of pie filling. Trim excess pastry from the pie plate edge. Press the edge of the pastry all around the pie plate rim with tines of fork to adhere top crust to bottom crust. Cut slits in top of pie pastry to allow steam to escape as pie bakes. For additional venting, prick the pie in several places with tines of a fork.
  5. In small bowl, lightly beat the reserved egg yolk with 1-2 tsp milk. With a pastry brush, lightly brush the pie with the egg-milk mixture. Sprinkle with granulated sugar.
  6. Place pie in refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow filling to settle and to chill pastry to reduce shrinkage while it bakes.
  7. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  8. Transfer pie to oven. Bake at 425°F for 10 minutes then reduce heat to 375°F. Bake for another 40 minutes then test with fork inserted into slit in center of pie to determine if apples are cooked. Apples should be fork-tender when pie is done. If not done, return pie to oven and check every 5 minutes until apples are fork tender. If pie browns too quickly before it is cooked, loosely tent pie with tin foil. Remove pie from oven and transfer to cooling rack.

 

For my Rustic Apple Pie recipe, click here.

Gluten-free Apple Pie
Gluten-free Apple Pie