Archive for the ‘General’ Category
It’s the beginning of the season of wedding receptions, summer dinner events, get-togethers, and banquets. I thought this might be a good time to post an article on dining and guest etiquette. Many of us, at one time or another, have probably found ourselves at a dinner event, sat down to a somewhat crowded table with heavily laden place settings that displayed more cutlery and glassware than imaginable and wondered, hmmm, which bread plate was ours – the one on the left or on the right of the place setting. Or, perhaps you have wondered what to do if your neighbour to the left has started to use your bread and butter plate thinking it was his or hers. Maybe you have deliberated over which utensil to use. Perhaps you have wondered if it is proper to tilt or pick up a soup bowl to get the last drop of that yummy soup. For answers to these and other guest and dining etiquette questions, I contacted Tina Lesyk, Banquet and Catering Coordinator at The Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown, PEI. I first introduced you to Tina in May 2012 when I posted a feature on how to properly set a table.
The purpose of learning and practicing proper table manners is to feel comfortable at any table, not insult your host or hostess and, in the case of business functions, it is essential for professional success. Let’s face it, no one wants to embarrass him or herself in these social situations. Follow the basic guidelines outlined below and you’ll be well on your way to being a model dinner guest in any setting, whether that be at a dinner in a private home, in a restaurant, or at a formal or state dinner. For a description and explanation of the elements of place settings, please see my earlier posting “Let’s Set the Table”.
First, let’s begin with some general tips on dining and guest etiquette.
General Dining Etiquette
- The old rule still holds true – elbows off the table when food is present.
- You should sit in the chair so that your back does not actually touch the back of the chair – this forces you to sit up straight.
- Everyone, leave the tech gadgets away from the table. Out of respect for the host/hostess and other guests, put cell phones on vibrate. If you absolutely must take a call during dinner, never answer the phone at the table in the presence of the host/hostess and other guests. Excuse yourself and move to another room to discretely take the call. The same applies to making a telephone call.
- Never use a toothpick while at the table. Picking food out of your teeth in front of fellow guests and the host or hostess is not appropriate conduct.
- If you drop a piece of cutlery on the floor, leave it there; do not retrieve it. If you are in a restaurant, signal to the waiter to bring you a replacement. If at a private event at someone’s house, ask your host/hostess for a replacement.
- If you find you have taken a bite of food that has a piece of gristle or small bone in it, do not make a big scene or draw attention about it. As discretely as possible, remove the item with your fork (the utensil it went into the mouth with) and set it to the side of your plate.
- If you have a severe food allergy, advise your host/hostess in advance of the function.
- If you are served a food that you do not like and cannot eat, make no mention of it; rather, simply go through the motions of moving the food around the plate.
- Never push the plate away from you when you have finished eating and do not stack up plates, utensils, and so forth, from your place setting – you may think you are helping but this gets in the way of the servers’ techniques for clearing tables.
- Applying lipstick, combing hair, and so forth are considered grooming activities, inappropriate for the dining table.
The purpose of the napkin is to protect clothing by acting as a shield or guard for spills and, if necessary, to dab the fingers and mouth, and remove traces of food particles.
- Remove the napkin from the place setting and place it on your lap immediately upon being seated at the table.
- For a normal-sized napkin, completely unfold the napkin and place it on your lap. It is not considered appropriate (and there is no need) to “shake” a napkin out of its fold. Simply, and very discretely, unfold the napkin.
- If the napkin is exceptionally large, fold it in half and, with the fold of the napkin facing you, place it on your lap.
- The napkin always goes on the lap and is never tucked into the collar and used as a bib.
- The napkin remains on your lap during the entire meal. If you need to temporarily leave the table during the meal, carefully bunch up the napkin and place it beside the plate. When you return to the table, re-place the napkin on your lap. At one time, the general rule was to place the napkin on the seat of your chair during a temporary absence from the table. However, there are a couple of issues with this that suggest an alternative location for the napkin may be preferable. First, the napkin may have food particles on it that will stain an upholstered chair and may also stain your clothing or leave crumbs on the chair when you return to the seat. Second, given the sole use of a napkin is to dab the mouth, many do not want to use that napkin for that purpose after it has laid on the seat of a chair that is used for, uh, sitting on the derrière. One never knows how clean those chairs are! Now, when bunching up the napkin that has stains or food particles on it, you will want to loosely fold the napkin in such a way that the stains/food particles are not visible when you temporarily leave the napkin on the table during your absence; leave the napkin, clean side up.
- A napkin is not a tissue or handkerchief so avoid using it to blow your nose (Note – you should excuse yourself from the table before blowing your nose).
- At the end of the meal, loosely bunch up the napkin and place it to the side of the plate (as shown in the photo below), not on the dirty plate. A paper napkin, however, could be left on the [dirty] plate since the napkin will be discarded anyway.
- If the cutlery is already on the table, begin using the utensils placed farthest away from the plate (assuming there is more than one fork and knife at the place setting). If there is no cutlery at the place setting when you sit down at the table, this means the host/hostess will bring the necessary utensils with each course of the meal.
- Never gesture or point with a piece of cutlery.
Proper Ways to Hold Cutlery While Eating
There are two main styles – American and European.
Normally, with this style, you hold the fork in the hand you write with. For demonstration purposes, I will describe the procedure for someone who is right-handed.
Hold the fork in your left hand and the knife in the right.
With fork tines facing down, gently spear the food with the fork to hold it in place as you cut the food. Once a bite-sized piece has been cut, rest the knife diagonally across the upper right edge of the plate. Switch the fork to your right hand and, with tines facing up, pick up the food and transfer it to the mouth.
If there is a pause in eating a course during the meal (e.g., to take a sip of water or briefly leave the table), there is a way to signal to the wait staff that you have not yet finished eating. Lay the fork, tines facing up, as shown in the photo below and place the knife, diagonally on the upper right-hand corner of the plate. Note that, once the knife has been picked up from the table, it should not touch the table again during the meal.
At the conclusion of the course, place the knife and fork together (fork tines up), parallel to each other at about the 4:30 clock position on the plate to signal to the wait staff that you have finished eating.
With this style, the fork remains in the left hand and the knife in the right for the entire meal. Food that needs to be cut is speared gently with the fork and cut with the knife held in the right hand. The knife is used to push food onto the back of the fork. The food is then transferred to the mouth with the fork, tines facing down, held in the left hand.
If there is a significant pause during the course, the fork and knife are placed on the plate as shown in the photo below.
At the conclusion of the course, place the knife and fork together (fork tines facing down) at about the 4:30 clock position on the plate to signal to the wait staff that you have finished eating. This would be the same as the American style with the only difference being that the fork tines would face downward toward the plate.
Which is mine?
- Follow this easy trick for remembering which bread and butter plate and which glass is yours: With your left hand, touch the tip of your first finger to your thumb. You will see it makes a lowercase “b” shape; “b” stands for “bread” – it goes on the left of the place setting, aligning with your left hand. Now, do the same thing with the first finger and thumb of your right hand. This makes a lowercase “d” shape. The “d” stands for “drink” and drinks go the right of the place setting, aligning with your right hand.
- If you find your neighbour has already starting using your bread and butter plate, discretely ask your host/hostess (if at a private dinner party) or your server at an event to bring you another.
Bread and Rolls
- Break bread and rolls with your fingers (as opposed to cutting with a knife). The knife is provided for buttering the bread or roll, not cutting it.
- If the bread or roll is served cold, take the butter pod and place it on to the bread and butter plate provided and butter each piece/bite of the broken bread or roll at a time as you eat each bite.
- If the bread or roll arrives warm at the table, break it apart and butter each broken section all at once to let the butter melt.
- The appropriate way to consume soup is to scoop it away from you as you will be less likely to spill or splash it on yourself.
- Do not place the entire bowl of the soup spoon in the mouth. Rather, sip the soup from the spoon.
- It goes without saying that there should be no ‘slurping’ noise during the soup-eating process!
- If the soup is too hot to comfortably consume, wait for it to cool. It is never considered proper etiquette to blow on the soup or stir it vigorously to cool it.
- It is inappropriate to dip bread in the soup as a way to gather up the soup – this is what a soup spoon is for.
- It is acceptable to tip the bowl ever so slightly away from you to scoop up the last bit of soup.
- It is not appropriate to lift the bowl up and hold it close to the mouth as you consume the soup.
- If the soup bowl has been served on a server plate, place the spoon on the server plate once you have finished the soup. If there is no server plate provided, leave the spoon in the bowl.
- If you are not a wine drinker, or do not want any wine with the meal, there are two ways to handle the situation when wine is being served: 1) discretely place your hand on top of the wine glass as the server approaches you with the wine. This will signal to the server that you do not wish to partake; or 2) simply let the server pour the wine and just do not drink it. The key is always discretion – you don’t want to make an issue of anything or draw attention to yourself.
- The proper way to hold a wine glass is by the stem so that your hand does not warm the wine or that fingerprints get left on the goblet itself, making it look smudgy. Holding the glass by the stem is also considered to give you better control when moving the wine in the glass and tasting it.
- Monitor your consumption – if several wines are being served throughout the meal, it is completely acceptable etiquette not to finish every glass. Intoxication does not make a good dinner guest.
Starting to Eat
- Wait for everyone at the table to be served before starting to eat. This applies to each course of the meal. If you are at a private dinner, it is proper etiquette to wait until the host/hostess picks up his or her fork before starting to eat unless, of course, the host/hostess tells you to start while he or she is still continuing with the dinner preparations and serving other guests.
- If food bowls, platters, etc., are being passed around the table for guests to serve themselves and one is starting with you (i.e., you pick up the bowl or platter directly in front of your place setting), offer it first to the person on your left while holding it for him/her to serve him/herself. Then serve yourself and pass the item to the person on your right. Always send everything to the right around the table and never directly pass items to guests across the table.
- Never intercept food being passed. For example, if someone asks for the basket of rolls to be passed, do not sneak a roll from the basket as it is going by you. Rather, after the requester has been served, ask for the item to be passed back to you.
Salt and Pepper Shakers
- Salt and pepper shakers should always travel in a set together even if someone ask for just the salt or pepper to be passed to him or her. This is because the next person looking for them will find them together, not orphaned here and there somewhere on the table and end up having two people passing them from different directions along to the requester. When someone ask you to pass him or her the salt and pepper, set them down on the table in front of the requester. This is the preferred method as there is less chance of dropping the items or upsetting them as could happen if they were transferred hand to hand.
- It is considered proper etiquette to always taste the food before seasoning it or you may insult the chef/host/hostess who has prepared the food – theory being that the chef has already properly seasoned the dish before serving it.
Special Food Items
Ever wonder what foods must be eaten with a fork and knife and which ones are acceptable to be eaten with the fingers? Here are some of the more common foods which are acceptable to be eaten with the fingers:
Asparagus (unless covered in a sauce)
Crispy bacon (ever chase a piece of crispy bacon with a fork around the plate as you try to capture it or cut it with a knife and the bacon lands on your neighbour’s plate?)
Oysters (probably the only, or one of very few, foods that can be acceptably eaten with a ‘slurping’ sound!)
Corn on the Cob
Cookie served with a dessert (the cookie is considered a finger food)
- Stay with topics that are neutral and of general interest, non-conflictual in nature – the old advice about avoiding discussions on politics and religion still holds true. The last thing you want to do is to instigate, or become engaged in, a heated discussion that leaves everyone around the table uncomfortable or at odds with each other.
- Do not discuss food allergies, health issues, or bad experiences with food. The fact that you may be lactose intolerant, have irritable bowel syndrome, or once got violently sick from eating shellfish, or have had food poisoning, does not make these subjects suitable table topics. As they say, that’s way too much information and detail, particularly at a dinner table where food is being served. Nothing can zap an appetite faster than to have a dinner guest regaling at length the graphic details of a bad food experience.
My thanks again to Tina Lesyk for taking the time to chat with me about proper guest etiquette and to share her extensive knowledge on the topic. We certainly haven’t covered every aspect of dining etiquette but, hopefully, we have covered the main points. Happy dining!
For the May “Cookie of the Month”, I am sharing our family recipe for the vintage cookie, Cherry Winks. My Mother often made these cookies when I was a small child so they have been a family favorite for many years. They are not difficult to make and don’t take any hard-to-find or unusual ingredients. These tasty cookies are very versatile – they can be served on a sweet tray at an afternoon tea or they can be lunchbox cookies.
3/4 cup shortening or butter
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs, unbeaten
4 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped dates
3/4 cup chopped pecans
apx. 2 1/2 – 3 cups cornflakes
apx. 15 maraschino cherries, blotted dry in paper towel, and cut into quarters
Preheat oven to 375F.
In bowl of stand mixer, cream shortening or butter. Add sugar and cream until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Beat in milk and vanilla.
In separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, soda, and salt. Whisk together to blend. Mix in the dates and pecans. Add to creamed mixture and stir until well combined.
Crush cornflakes crumbs by placing in a sealed ziplock bag and crushing with a rolling pin.
Transfer crumbs to shallow bowl. Shape dough into small balls. Roll each cookie ball in the crumbs to coat. Place on parchment-lined baking sheets. Top each cookie with piece of cherry.
Bake for 10-12 minutes. Do not overbake. Let cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.
Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies.
These cookies go especially well with a glass of cold milk!
…and one is never enough!
A box of these cookies makes a wonderful, tasty gift!
What are your memories of cherry winks?
Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today. If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my feed by entering your email address in the subscribe box in the upper left-hand sidebar. That way, you will receive an email notification whenever I add a new posting to this blog. Be sure to also follow me on twitter @PEIBistro and on Pinterest at “Island Bistro Kitchen”.
The New Festival of Wines Prince Edward Island is a signature springtime event on the Island. Now in its 19th year, this is the first time the PEI Liquor Control Commission has hired a private event management company, Versatile Management Group, to manage the Festival. Versatile has pulled out all the stops to make this a high-end event.
This year, there are 39 booths providing samples of 225 wines from twelve different countries. Many of these wines are new to PEI and are not currently sold in local liquor stores. These wines will, however, be available for sale at the onsite Wine Boutique during the Festival. The New Festival of Wines also includes a juried wine competition where six judges, blind testing, chose the top wines and runners-up in five categories. These wines are also available for sampling during the event.
If you are a wine connoisseur, or simply a lover of fine wines, you will not want to miss this premier event. The Grand Tasting event allows patrons to explore and sample new wines and learn more about them. For wineries or their agents, it’s a chance to introduce and present their wines. Says Jennifer Caseley of Versatile Management Group, “depending on sales at the event’s Wine Boutique, those wines may eventually be listed products at local liquor stores“.
Yes, even Sangria made an appearance at this year’s Grand Tasting event! In addition to samples, Verano Wines also shared their recipe for this tasty Spanish drink.
Look for attractively displayed booths at the event.
Each year, a wine-producing country is selected to have its wines featured for the event. This year, it is France, one of the oldest and most renown wine-producers in the world. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be wines from other wine-producing countries – they are there too.
On PEI, it’s almost inconceivable to have an event of any kind without food! There is a whole new food element to this year’s Festival. As you walk into the event, you are greeted with a Raspberry Point oyster from the PEI International Shellfish Festival and along with a glass of champagne.
Be sure to hang on to the wineglass and carry it with you throughout the evening as you will need it to sample wines as you tour the booths.
Each evening, there are food stations set up inside the venue. These stations serve four different appetizers. Last evening, Chef Andrew Smith of “Top of the Park” Restaurant at the Red Shores Racetrack and Casino created BBQ Pulled Chicken Bruschetta, House Spiced Turkey Meatballs, Seafood Fritters, and Lemon Curd Filled Phyllo Cups for patrons. This evening, Chef Jane Crawford from the Red Water Rustic Grille will tempt palettes with four tasty appetizers as well.
What would wine be without cheese! The Dairy Farmers of Canada along with PEI’s award-winning Cows Creamery, are serving samples of their fine cheeses that pair so well with wine. This afternoon, there is an ancillary event (separate tickets required) sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Canada and PEI’s Rossignol Winery that will focus on the art of wine and cheese pairings.
Be sure to also check out Blossoms’ booth. Blossoms is a new local business on the Island that specializes in making fresh fruit bouquets. Their colourful and tasty offerings of chocolate dipped strawberries and other fruits were making a hit at the Festival last evening.
Organizers have thought of all the details! They even offer a wine check so patrons do not have to carry around heavy bottles of wine they have purchased at the Wine Boutique. Their purchases may be shipped for pick-up at any one of the PEI Liquor Control Commission’s 18 corporate retail outlets across the Island.
This two-day extravaganza is held at the Charlottetown Civic Centre on Kensington Road on May 24-25, 2013. Tickets to the Grand Tasting event are $44. per person (taxes incl) – note you must be 19 and over to attend the Festival. The event can accommodate over 1000 guests per evening and tickets are also available day-of at the Civic Centre box office. The Festival’s hours of operation today are from 7:00pm – 11:00pm. The Wine Boutique, run by the PEI Liquor Control Commission and from which wines may be purchased, operates from 3:00pm – 10:30pm today. Tickets are not required to enter the Wine Boutique.
A complimentary shuttle service is available to transport patrons between the Civic Centre and the downtown area. This service runs from 6:00pm – 11:00pm this evening. Please enjoy the Festival but do drink responsibly and use the provided shuttle service or a designated driver or taxi.
Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today. If you enjoyed this post, why not subscribe to my feed by entering your email address in the subscribe box in the upper left-hand sidebar. That way, you will receive an email notification whenever I add a new posting to this blog. Be sure to also follow me on twitter @PEIBistro and on Pinterest at “Island Bistro Kitchen”
Yesterday, I paid a visit to Tim Dixon in North Tryon, PEI. Amongst other crops grown on the family farm, Tim grows a small acreage of asparagus which he markets to Island restaurants and also sells at the farm gate.
Below is a photo of an asparagus spear just about ready to be harvested.
Tim has been growing asparagus since 2000 and presently has acreage that yields between 500-700 pounds of this spring vegetable annually. I asked Tim why he decided to grow asparagus and he tells me he was looking to diversify his crop planting and was also looking for a market niche.
There are several varieties of asparagus but the bulk of Tim’s crop is the Jersey Giant variety. The asparagus is planted in springtime and is grown from crowns planted 1 foot deep in the rich red soil not far from the Tryon River. It usually takes a couple of years for the asparagus from a crown to be fully ready to be harvested.
Despite its Mediterranean origins and liking heat, Tim says asparagus is a hardy plant that only requires a light discing in the spring, a coating of manure, and some weed control. Tim says winter kill is not an issue for asparagus and a crown will generally produce spears for about 15 years.
Asparagus is one of the first vegetables of spring on PEI. Harvesting usually begins around Victoria Day in mid-May and continues until the end of June/first of July. When the spears are 6”-8” tall, Tim hand-picks them by snapping the spears off the stock, not cutting them. He tells me that the rule of thumb for harvesting asparagus is to pick for one week in the first year after planting, then 2 weeks the next, 3 weeks in year 3, up to 6 weeks of harvesting for mature asparagus.
Tim says the local community is very supportive and neighbours are amongst his best customers. On the farm, he sells both 1-pound and 2-pound bags of fresh asparagus. I asked him if he knew how his neighbours were preparing the asparagus and he says, typically, many steam or sauté the spears.
A standard-sized portion serving is 5 spears. Asparagus plates well because of its long, slender, vivid green spears and pointed flower heads that can range in color from dark green to tints of deep purple. It adds presentation, texture, and flavour to a meal. Asparagus has an earthy, unique taste and pairs well with poultry, seafood, and pasta. There are endless ways to prepare asparagus. One of my favourite ways to prepare asparagus is to mist it with a good quality olive oil, sprinkle it with freshly ground pepper, sea salt, and finely grated parmesan cheese and then barbeque it in a veggie basket over the open flame.
For maximum freshness, this vegetable is best used within 2-3 days of picking; however, asparagus will last up to near a week if stored in an open-ended plastic bag in the refrigerator. Wrap the woody ends of the spears in a damp paper towel to prolong their freshness. Be sure to trim off the woody ends before cooking.
My feature recipe today for asparagus is very simple. I tossed the spears with a light drizzle of Liquid Gold’s Arbequina extra virgin olive oil. Make sure you use a high quality olive oil for this dish.
For each serving I used a super-thin slice of prosciutto onto which I carefully spread a thin layer of spiced garlic and herb soft goat cheese. Be very gentle and careful with this step as prosciutto is very delicate and breaks apart easily.
Bundle together five spears and place them on the prosciutto slice. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and sea salt.
Gently wrap the prosciutto around the asparagus spears.
Transfer each bundle to a lightly greased baking sheet.
Bake at 375F for about 15 minutes.
I served the asparagus bundles with an almond-crusted stuffed chicken breast and duchess potatoes.
The Dixon Farm is located at 140 North Tryon Cross Road in North Tryon, PEI. To make arrangements to buy fresh Island asparagus, visit the farm or contact Tim Dixon by phone at 902-432-4771 or by email at email@example.com. Be sure to visit Tim’s website to learn more about the Dixon Farm.
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Happy Mother’s Day to all Moms!
What mom doesn’t like to be pampered on Mother’s Day and what says pampering more than breakfast in bed! Dress up an ordinary bed tray with a lovely napkin or pretty placemat and prepare a scrumptious breakfast for Mom.
The Menu: Start with a fresh fruit cup presented in the prettiest, daintiest pedestal dessert dish. Choose a variety of fruits of different colors, shapes, and textures.
Fresh squeezed orange juice adds an element of sophistication to the breakfast tray.
For the main course, I chose to serve scrambled eggs on crostini with a roasted parmesan tomato half. The roasted tomato is so simple to make. Simply cut a tomato in half. A sprinkle of Italian seasoning, salt, pepper, and a shake of parmesan cheese is all it takes to season the tomatoes. Drizzle each half tomato with a good quality olive oil – I used Liquid Gold’s Organic Tuscan Herb Infused Olive Oil. Roast the tomato on a lightly greased baking sheet in a 450F oven for 12-15 minutes.
How yummy does this tomato look!
A few herbs and a topping of grated cheddar cheese take scrambled eggs to a whole new level, particularly when served on a tasty crostini.
Look for lots of color to add to the breakfast tray. Color makes the tray look so much more vibrant, interesting, and appealing.
Select the prettiest cup and saucer to dress up the tray.
I like these petite individual-sized teapots. They are very versatile and don’t take up much room on a bed tray.
Fresh flowers are a must for any special breakfast in bed tray. Miniature carnations are very suitable for bed trays. Everything should be to scale in order for it to fit on the tray.
Lastly, you’ll want to add the finishing touch of a lovely and carefully chosen Mother’s Day Card.
A beautiful card for a beautiful Mom!
It’s all about Mom on Mother’s Day. It’s not always the big, fancy gifts that touch the heart. Most often, it is something like the care and attention that goes into planning something special, like breakfast in bed and, most importantly spending time together, that means the most.
I love afternoon tea. It’s such a peaceful, tranquil, and genteel experience. It’s the perfect way to celebrate Mother’s Day. Today, I share photos from my Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea. Enjoy!
On the tea menu: Cucumber and tomato sandwiches, strawberry custard, shortbread, and rainbow marshmallow square. Tea Pairing: New English Teas’ English Afternoon Tea (Coventry, England).
Cool and refreshing cucumber sandwiches.
Tomato sandwiches on thinly sliced artisan bread.
Smooth and creamy strawberry custard and fresh fruit skewers.
I love these colorful and tasty treats, particularly when served in these petite dishes!
Dainty spritz shortbread and rainbow marshmallow squares satisfy the sweet tooth!
Love the pastel shades which are suitable for springtime tea events.
I love how these colors blend attractively on the plate.
Teatime treats are typically petite and dainty.
Teacups and teapot are Japanese porcelain.
Tableware does not need to all match perfectly for a tea table. It just needs to blend well and the pieces compliment each other. Having different patterns creates interest and doesn’t look so matchy-matchy.
These are marvelously-designed delicate cups on pedestals. They look very grand, stately, and elegant, don’t you think!
Love the filigree trim on the saucers.
This slim-line teapot looks very stately and in command on the tea table.
A mixed bouquet of roses is a great compromise when I can’t decide on one particular color theme!
Although by no means the only floral option, roses tend to be perennial favorites for tea table accents.
This four-tier stand is a great space saver, particularly for small tea tables.
While my favorite plates are white because the food shows up so splendidly on them, I like the floral on these plates for a tea table.
I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse into my Mother’s Day Afternoon Tea. It was grand fun.
Happy Mother’s Day To All Moms!
The opening of the spring lobster season on Prince Edward Island is always an event. Fishing boats, laden with lobster traps like those in the photos below, depart wharves around the Island in the very early morning to set their traps, often going several miles out to sea. This is called “setting day” and it is not uncommon for people in the local fishing communities to head to their local wharves to see the fishing boats off. Setting day 2013 was yesterday, April 29th. I didn’t make it to a wharf yesterday or today but I am sharing some photographs I took during fishing season 2012.
Several communities also have church services known as the “Blessing of the Fleet” services on the Sunday before setting day. These are sometimes held inside nearby local churches but, most frequently, they are held on the wharves of the fishing ports.
Today was the first day of the season that fishers could check their set traps and bring in their catches. The photos below were taken at North Lake Harbour, PEI on June 1, 2012; however, the same scene would be playing out today at many harbours across PEI.And, here are the “goods”!
Boats at rest after their day’s work fetching the catch.And, once they are cooked, look at the fabulous rich color of these freshly caught PEI lobsters!
Many Islanders will be dining on fresh lobster for supper this evening. For many, it is a tradition to have fresh lobster on the first day of the catch. This is one of the benefits of living on an Island – we have plenty of fresh seafood. Many (including myself) will argue that lobster from the spring fishery is better than lobster fished later in the summer from waters that have warmed up over the season (even though lobster from the later catch is very good, too). I don’t know why it is but lobster from the cold Atlantic water always does seem to taste better and I think even has a better texture meat.
I remember the first time I was on a Caribbean cruise many years ago, ordering lobster from the dinner menu. My taste buds were salivating for what I knew to be lobster taste. Oh my! It didn’t taste like lobster at all as I know it. That’s when I discovered the difference in taste of lobster that comes out of cold water and that out of very warm waters! I never ordered lobster from a cruise ship menu again. I wait for the good PEI lobster at home! The ironic part of this is that I never liked lobster when I was growing up. In fact, when the family would be chowing down on lobster, my mother always roasted me a chicken! However, they convinced me to try a bite of it when I was probably about 18 years old and I’ve never looked back and have more than made up for it since! I love lobster by itself and in just about any other recipe imaginable!
So, tonight, I am dining on Lobster Cakes to celebrate the opening of the 2013 PEI lobster fishery season and am sharing my recipe with you.
Barbara’s Lobster Cakes
2 cups warm mashed potatoes (about 2-3 medium-sized potatoes)
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp tartar sauce
2 oz. grated cheddar cheese
¼ tsp dried dillweed
½ tsp parsley
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 small scallion (apx. 1 ½ tbsp)
2 tbsp celery, finely chopped
2 tbsp red pepper, finely chopped
7 – 8 oz. cooked lobster (fresh or frozen), cut into bite-sized chunks
½ – 1 cup bread crumbs
Apx. ¾ cup finely ground seasoned bread crumbs for dredging lobster patties
1 – 2 tbsp oil
Place warm mashed potatoes in large bowl. Add beaten egg and mix well. Add tartar sauce.
Stir in grated cheddar cheese.
Add dillweed, parsley, and pepper. Stir in scallions, celery, and red pepper.
Lastly, add the lobster and mix well. Add just enough of the first amount of bread crumbs so the mixture will hold together and can be formed into patties.
Using ¼ cup measuring cup, scoop up mixture and form into round patties. In shallow bowl, place the seasoned bread crumbs. Dredge each patty in the bread crumbs until completely covered on all sides. Place on wax-paper lined baking sheet and chill for 1 hour to allow flavours to blend and for patties to become firm so they won’t break apart when sautéed.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Heat oil in non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, reduce heat to medium and sauté lobster cakes 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Transfer browned cakes to greased baking sheet. Bake in oven 6-7 minutes to finish the cooking process and allow cakes to become firm so they will hold together.
Serve lobster cakes, 2 per person, hot with citrus aioli or your favorite tartar sauce and a side of green salad.
These cakes freeze well, uncooked. When ready to serve, simply remove cakes from freezer and thaw. Sauté and bake as described above.
Yield: Apx. 1 dozen cakes
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Okay, so my recipe is actually eight layers, but who is counting when the meal is as tasty as this one is!
Seven-layer dinner (sometimes called “Shipwreck”) is really little more than a full dinner in a casserole and baked in the oven. I grew up (as I am sure many of you have) with this vintage meal served on a regular basis. The seven main ingredients are: 1) onions, 2) meat, 3) potatoes, 4) celery, 5) carrot, 6) peas, and 7) rice. Sometimes, it’s a six-layer dinner depending on what veggies I have on hand and sometimes it might be eight or nine layers thick. I like to add parsnip because it adds a level of sweetness. Sometimes, I will slice turnip very thinly and add it as well. Frozen corn also works in addition to the frozen peas or instead of. In that regard, it is almost a potluck dish!
It has probably been named “Shipwreck” because it can be made with pretty much any vegetables you happen to have on hand as well as different kinds of meats, such as ground beef or sausage and it is also an economical way to stretch the meat content. In many households, it can be made with what is on hand without having to go shopping and it doesn’t take any kind of exotic or hard-to-find ingredients. This is an old-fashioned hearty meal. Have you noticed that many of these old “stand-by” meals are becoming popular again?
On a regular basis, I tend to cook with a fair bit of seasonings and spices. However, this is one dish that I never add anything to it other than salt and pepper and the onion for flavour.
In my home, I grew up with this recipe being made with ground beef (we never used any other kind of meat in it) so, as April closes out as the month on PEI to promote local beef, I am sharing my recipe for this simple comfort food. The beef I used for this casserole is 100% Island beef and was purchased at KJL Meats, a local butcher shop in Charlottetown, PEI.
This is a great meal to make when you have little time for meal preparation and clean-up because all the veggies, the rice, and the meat cook together in the one casserole so there are no pots and pans to wash (bonus!) other than the dish it bakes in. And, your kitchen will smell divine when this is baking in the oven! If there happens to be any leftover, this meal carries over well and, in fact, the flavours seem to become even richer the next day when it is reheated.
1 medium onion
2 medium-sized potatoes, thinly sliced (about 1/8 inch thick)
½ – ¾ pound extra lean ground beef
½ cup celery
1/3 cup parsnips, thinly sliced (about 1/16 inch thick)
1 cup carrots, thinly sliced
½ cup frozen peas
scant ½ cup Minute Rice
1 can tomato soup
1 soup can of water
Grease 2-quart casserole. Peel and slice onions to make first layer of casserole.
Add the layer of sliced potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Add the layer of ground beef. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Add celery, parsnips, carrots, and frozen peas. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Sprinkle ingredients with rice. Cover casserole ingredients with can of tomato soup. Pour one soup can of water over top of ingredients (or, if you wish, you can mix the soup and water together and pour as one over the casserole ingredients).
Cover and bake at 350F for 1 ½ – 2 hours until vegetables are tender.
It is hard to plate this meal attractively but its taste more than makes up for its lack of presentation!
Suggested Serving: Serve with homemade mustard pickles and whole grain artisan bread.
Spritz cookies are dainty-shaped cookies that are crisp and buttery. They are made by pushing soft cookie dough through a cookie press which is a cylinder fitted with a decorative disk that has patterned holes through which the dough is “squirted” or pressed into shapes. Typically, cookie presses come with many different decorative disks – mine has probably 20 or more.
These cookies are popular at Christmas, special occasions, and are very suitable for afternoon teas as they can be made in so many different shapes and colors and can be further embellished with icing, colored sugar, miniature gumdrops, or dragées.
My recipe for Lemon Spritz Cookies is buttery rich and delicate. I like the flavour burst of lemon juice and zest in these petite cookies.
This recipe does best when the dough is chilled for 24 hours to allow the egg yolk to get fully incorporated and absorbed into the other ingredients. Unlike most liquids, such as water or milk, for example, eggs take a lot more time to become incorporated into the dry ingredients. When the dough comes out of the refrigerator, it will be too hard to push through the cookie press so let the dough sit at room temperature for about an hour or so until it becomes pliable enough that it can be formed into a roll that can be inserted into the cookie press cylinder. You’ll notice this recipe has no baking powder or soda. This is because that would cause the cookies to raise which, in turn, would result in them losing their shape and design that makes them spritz cookies.
Lemon Spritz Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
½ cup icing sugar
½ cup cornstarch
1 egg yolk
½ tsp lemon juice
½ tsp vanilla
¼ tsp almond flavouring
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1 2/3 cup flour
Cream butter and icing sugar.
Blend in cornstarch.
Add egg yolk, lemon juice, vanilla, almond flavouring, and lemon zest.
Add the flour, salt, and cardamom to creamed mixture, stirring until well combined.
Cover dough tightly with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for 24 hours.
Remove dough from refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for apx. 1 hour. Form dough into a roll that will fit inside the cookie press cylinder. Insert dough roll into the cookie press.
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Follow manufacturer’s directions for your cookie press to form the cookies into decorative shapes. Decorate with colored sugar, if desired. Bake at 400F for 7-8 minutes. Watch the cookies closely as their high butter content and small size means they will burn easily and quickly. Let cookies cool on baking sheets for 2-3 minutes then transfer them to wire racks to finish cooling.
I’m back! I took a brief break from my own food blog to do some guest blogging for PEI Burger Love, a month-long marketing campaign on PEI to support local PEI beef producers. I’ll tell you more about that in a future post. Because this is a month to promote beef on the Island, I am sharing my recipe for Cottage Pie since its main ingredient is ground beef which I purchased locally at the Summerside Butcher’s Shop on Central Street.
I first had Cottage Pie (although I didn’t know that’s what it was) many years ago as a small child at Camp Segunakadeck (Seggie) on the south shore of PEI. I came home from summer camp raving about this yummy dish and trying to describe it to my mother. As a seven or eight-year old, my descriptions of culinary delights would not have been enough for even a seasoned professional chef to be able to concoct some resemblance of the meal. The description would have went something like this…there was hamburg and ‘stuff’ on the bottom and mashed potatoes on the top and it was made in a large pan. Many years later when I would recall my camping experience, I was always reminded of this dish which I have since come to realize was likely a version of Shepherd’s or Cottage Pie, most likely the latter.
In the years since, I have tried many recipes for Shepherd’s Pie or Cottage Pie but none were very flavourful and I was never satisfied with the result. One thing I learned not so long ago is that, while both have a cover of mashed potatoes on top of the meat, there is a difference between the two: Shepherd’s Pie is made with ground (or minced) lamb and Cottage Pie is made with ground (or minced) beef, more commonly known as hamburg. So, while many of us use the generic name “Shepherd’s Pie” when referring to this dish, if we are using ground beef, then it’s really Cottage Pie we are making. The great thing about Cottage Pie is that you can add any veggies you like (or eliminate any you don’t) or you can make it primarily with meat and very few vegetables.
The recipe I have created for my tomato-based Cottage Pie contains a lengthy list of ingredients and, I will forewarn, it does take a bit of time to make. However, the end result is worth the effort and this comfort food freezes well (unbaked) so it’s a great dish to have on hand in the freezer for busy nights when everyone arrives home hungry for dinner and no one has the energy to make a fulsome meal from scratch. Serve the Cottage Pie with string beans, asparagus, or a green salad.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb extra-lean ground beef
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup diced carrots
2 tbsp diced parsnip
½ cup chopped celery
¼ cup chopped green pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp flour
2 ½ tbsp tomato paste
½ cup tomato sauce
1 tbsp ketchup
1 cup canned diced tomatoes, with juice
½ cup tomato soup
¼ cup red wine
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 cup beef broth
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tsp. molasses
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
1 bay leaf
½ cup frozen peas
½ cup frozen corn
2 lbs potatoes
½ cup milk
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp soft butter
¼ cup grated cheese of choice
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in large frypan. Brown meat over medium-low heat. Drain off any excess fat. Set aside.
In large saucepan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil. Sauté onion, carrot, parsnip, celery, green pepper, and garlic for 3-4 minutes over medium-low heat. Add mushrooms. Sauté for 2-3 minutes.
Sprinkle flour over the mixture and stir in tomato paste, tomato sauce, and ketchup. Cook 1-2 minutes.
Add canned tomatoes, tomato soup, red wine, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, beef broth, salt, pepper, molasses, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat to medium-low.
Add cooked ground beef and spices. Cook 3-4 minutes until mixture is heated.
Add frozen corn and peas and cook 2-3 minutes longer. Remove from heat.
Cook potatoes. Drain. Mash. Transfer mashed potatoes to bowl of stand mixer and whip for apx. 2 minutes on high speed with milk, egg yolk, salt, pepper, butter, nutmeg, and grated cheese (I used Parmigiano Reggiano).
Preheat oven to 350F.
Spray casserole dish or individual ramekins with cooking spray.
Remove and discard bayleaf and spoon meat mixture into dishes, filling each a scant ¾ full. Top with spoonfuls of whipped potatoes to the top of the casserole or ramekins. With knife, gently spread potatoes so meat mixture is entirely covered. Using tines of a fork, create a decorative pattern on the potato topping. Sprinkle with paprika.
Bake, uncovered, 30-40 minutes, until topping starts to brown. Remove from oven and let stand 8-10 minutes. Serve with steamed green beans, asparagus, or a green salad.
Makes 8-9 servings
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