Category Archives: Recipes

Double-crusted Chicken Pot Pies

Small Chicken Pot Pie on white dinner plate with small dish of cranberry sauce
Double-crusted Chicken Pot Pie

Comfort food has an emotional, nostalgic, and/or sentimental aspect to it.  It evokes reactions to the senses of sight, taste, and smell.  Think of walking into a kitchen where, for example, a roast chicken or turkey dinner is cooking.  Can you visualize the golden roasted chicken or turkey?  Recall the aroma? The satisfying taste? The mere sound of someone talking about homemade apple pie can summon both the smell and taste sensation of such a fabulously simple dessert.  Maybe you remember the smell of bread baking in the oven at your mother’s or grandmother’s house.  Can you recall the heavenly taste of the homemade bread?

These are a few classic examples of traditional comfort foods.  They are typically hearty foods (not necessarily devoid of calories) that conjure up great taste sensations and perhaps wonderful memories of special people in your life with whom you associate specific foods or special events.

One of my special memories of comfort food is arriving at my grandmother’s house just as a batch of big, fat, soft molasses cookies was coming out of the oven.  This particular grandmother was the epitome of the typical picture of a grandmother – gray hair in a bun, floral pinafore….and you get the picture.  Even as I write this, decades later, I can still conjure up the spicy scent of the molasses cookies and the memory picture of my grandmother removing the pan of cookies from the oven of her wood stove and her sheer pleasure, sitting in her Boston rocker beside the stove, watching little hands reaching for a warm cookie and savoring every bite.  Sweet memories of simple pleasures.

Small, individuall sized chicken pot pies in little tin pie plates sitting on top of a green and white tea towel
Individual Double-crusted Chicken Pot Pies

Today, I am sharing my recipe for individual-size Chicken Pot Pies that, in my view, fall nicely into the comfort food category.  Getting the right seasoning and consistency for the sauce and a flaky pastry in which to encase the filling are the two big aspects of making a tasty and satisfying chicken pot pie.  Once you have a good recipe for those, you have a good chicken pot pie.

These pies are filled with a mixture of vegetables and chunks of chicken (or turkey – either works) surrounded by a gently seasoned creamy sauce.  All encased within tender and flaky pastry, these Chicken Pot Pies are the full meal deal.  I typically serve them with nothing but the condiments of homemade mustard pickles and/or cranberry sauce.

Small individual chicken pot pie on dinner plate beside small dish of cranberry sauce
Chicken Pot Pie

Making homemade Chicken Pot Pies can be a bit time-consuming but, if you break the task down into logical steps, the work is accomplished quite efficiently and the end result is all worth it. There are four key steps in making this classic comfort food:

  • Get organized
  • Prepare the filling
  • Prepare the pastry
  • Assemble and bake the pies

Step 1 – Get Organized

Breaking down the tasks and preparing and measuring all the ingredients before beginning to cook will make the work of preparing Chicken Pot Pies efficient.  Of course, the first step is to read through the recipe thoroughly to ensure you understand the steps and procedure.  Make the grocery list of any items you don’t already have on hand.  Plan the shopping excursion to the supermarket.

The recipe is written in logical format, calling for ingredients in the order in which the method is laid out.  Break down the tasks.  Some parts can actually be prepared the day before.  If you need to cook chicken for this recipe, complete that task the day before. The vegetables can be peeled, chopped, and stored in the refrigerator overnight. The pastry can be made the day before and refrigerated. In fact, the entire filling can be made a day ahead and refrigerated and the pies assembled the following day.

Set out all the pots, pans, and cooking utensils needed.  Remember those Home Ec class days when we thought these tasks were mundane and tedious and all we really wanted to do was get to the actual cooking? Turns out the teacher really was giving great advice on how to efficiently organize cooking activities. There is nothing more frustrating than looking for a grater or big spoon just as you’re ready for it!

Before starting to make the recipe, group the ingredients according to different aspects of the pie-making – i.e., pastry ingredients, vegetables, and sauce.   By doing this upfront organization, it will ensure you don’t leave out an ingredient, the actual making of the dish will go faster, and the work area will be less chaotic and cluttered than it would be if several containers and ingredients are all over the counter.

Look for items in the recipe that need the longest cooking or chilling times and prepare those first.  Start with the filling and know that the filling has to be completely cold before assembling the pies so be sure to allot time for the chilling process.  Otherwise, hot or warm filling will break down the fat in the pastry, causing a soggy bottom crust. The pastry needs chilling time, though less than the filling, so make it while the filling is cooling.

Step 2 – Make the Filling

Cooked poultry (either chicken or turkey) is required for this recipe.  This is a great recipe to use if you have leftover roast chicken or turkey.  Chicken or turkey breasts can, of course, be cooked (using your preferred cooking method) specifically for this recipe.  A supermarket BBQ chicken can also be used to save time.

Sauté the vegetables. Having the vegetables already chopped means they can be quickly added to the pan when needed since some vegetables require shorter cooking times than others. It also means that some vegetables in the pan are not getting over-cooked and limp while you stop to chop up the ones needed next.

Prepare the sauce.  Either wheat-based or gluten-free flour can be used as the primary thickener in this recipe.  The recipe calls for either chicken or turkey stock and either homemade or commercial stock can be used.

The sauce needs to be cooked until thickened to the consistency of a very thick chowder.  Add the cooked chicken and frozen peas. Cool the filling completely before assembling pies.

Step 3 – Make the Pastry

The pastry for this pie can be made with either wheat-based flour or gluten-free 1-to-1 flour. The 1-to-1 flour can be used in the same quantity as the recipe calls for for the wheat-based flour.  Other gluten-free flours cannot automatically be substituted, cup-for-cup, so you’d need to know their individual properties, substitution weights, and how they would interact with the fat and liquid content called for in the recipe in order to use them in this recipe.

Here are some basic hints on successfully making pastry, regardless if you are making wheat-based or gluten-free pastry.  All ingredients, even the flour, should be super cold.  Use only enough of the water-egg-vinegar mixture that the dough will cling together.  Too much water will yield a tough crust and, as we all know, the hallmark of the best pastry is a tender and flaky texture.  Adding some vinegar to the liquid ingredients helps to tenderize the dough.  I use one part butter and one part lard in my pie pastry. Using all butter in pastry will give a wonderful flavor and a lovely tanned crust. However, it can 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. 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.  Use flour sparingly on the work surface on which the pastry is rolled out as too much flour toughens pastry. Roll the pastry to desired thickness, generally between 1/16” – 1/8” thick.

Hands on rolling pin rolling out pie pastry with three disks of pastry in the foreground
Rolling Pie Pastry

The pastry can be made several days ahead and refrigerated up to three to four days or frozen for up to 2-3 months.  Because pastry dough freezes well, I will often mix up a large batch of pastry to have on hand in the freezer.  Simply divide the dough into desired size portions, form into disks, and freeze individually wrapped in plastic wrap inside airtight freezer bags.

This recipe is designed to be made into individual personal-sized pies, about 4” – 5” in diameter.  These small individual pies have been designed to be double-crusted pies.  I prefer presenting them as individual personal pies versus baking them in large pie plates because the smaller pies stay intact and plate well.  By making them double-crusted, they are easily slid out of the pie plates on to dinner plates and the filling stays inside the two crusts. The filling is the consistency of thick chowder so, if it was made in a large pie plate and wedges were cut, it is likely that it would not cut out well with the filling staying intact inside each pie wedge and, for lack of a better description, it would go “splat” when cut and transferred to a plate.

Individual chicken pot pie on white dinner plate with a small dish of cranberry sauce
Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

I have a supply of small tin pie plates I typically use for these pies but tinfoil meat pie plates work equally well and, if I run out of the tin plates, I do use the tinfoil ones.  These will often be labeled as meat pie plates and can be obtained at reasonable prices at supermarkets and even dollar stores.

Eight mini tin and tinfoil pieplates on table
5″ Individual Pie Plates

 

Step 4 – Assemble the Pies

Place the cold filling in the prepared and chilled pie shells.  Cover with the top crust pastry.  Ensure there are slits in the top of the pastry to allow the steam to escape while the pies bake. Glaze the tops of the pies with an egg wash, if desired.  Use a light touch when applying the egg wash – don’t saturate the tops of the pies. The egg wash will add more color and a lovely gloss to the tops of the pies.  Place the unbaked pies in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to allow the filling to settle and to chill the pastry.  This will help to reduce pastry shrinkage during baking.

Hands rolling pie pastry with small chicken pot pies in the foreground
Making Double-crusted Chicken Pot Pies

Place the pies on one or two large baking sheets and transfer them to the lowest rack in the oven that has been preheated to 425°F. After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to 375°F and bake the pies for about 35-40 minutes or until the filling starts bubbling out through the steam vent holes in the tops of the pies. Using the bottom rack heats the bottoms of the pies, yielding a more crispy and stable crust.

These pies are best if they rest after baking for 15-20 minutes at room temperature before eating.  This allows the filling to set and the pie to be at comfortable eating temperature so its flavor is best enjoyed.

Two baked Chicken Pot Pies on brown background
Chicken Pot Pies

If making the pies to have for later use, freeze them unbaked then bake them from frozen state.  Allow an additional 10-15 minutes for the frozen pies to bake.

Individual chicken pot pie on white dinner plate with knife and fork in background
Chicken Pot Pie

These Chicken Pot Pies are part of my “batch cooking for the freezer” repertoire.  They are super handy to have on hand and make a weeknight dinner easy to pull together with minimal work and kitchen clean-up at the time.  The added bonus is the divine aroma in the house as the pies bake, whetting the appetite for a tasty dinner to enjoy.

[Printable recipe follows at end of post]

Double-crusted Chicken Pot Pies

 Ingredients:

1 batch pastry (recipe follows)

1½ tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
½ cup onion, finely chopped
¾ cup carrots, diced into ¼“cubes
2/3 cup celery, finely chopped
¼ cup parsnip, diced into 1/8“ cubes
¼ cup turnip, diced into ¼“ cubes

2 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced or chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp dried summer savory
½ tsp dried oregano
¼ tsp dried rosemary, crushed
1 cup warm poultry stock (either chicken or turkey)
8 oz Russet potatoes, diced into ½” cubes (apx. 1 cup diced)

1 tbsp olive oil
1½ tbsp butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour (or 1-to-1 gluten-free flour)
1½ tbsp cornstarch
2 cups warm poultry stock (either chicken or turkey)
1/2 cup whipping cream (35% M.F.)
2½ tbsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated
2½ tbsp medium cheddar cheese, finely grated
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
1½ tbsp dry white wine (optional)
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp dried parsley
Salt and Pepper, to taste

2½ cups cooked diced chicken
½ cup frozen peas

 Method:

In large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat then add the butter.  When butter is melted, add the onion, carrots, celery, parsnip, and turnip.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately 10 minutes.  Add the mushrooms, garlic, summer savory, oregano, and rosemary.  Cook 2-3 minutes longer, stirring continuously.  Add 1 cup chicken or turkey stock and the potatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat then reduce to low and simmer for approximately 8-10 minutes, or until vegetables start to soften.  Remove from heat.

While vegetables are cooking start preparing the sauce by heating second amount of oil in separate saucepan over medium heat.  Add the butter.  Stir in the flour and cornstarch (mixed together).  Whisk in the remaining 2 cups of warm chicken or turkey stock along with the whipping cream, cheeses, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, white wine, cayenne, parsley, and salt and pepper.  Reduce heat slightly and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens to the consistency of a very thick chowder.

Add the cooked chicken and frozen peas to the saucepan or Dutch oven containing the vegetables.  Stir.  Pour the sauce into the mixture.  Stir. Remove from heat and cool for about ¾ hour at room temperature, stirring occasionally, then refrigerate until mixture is cold.

Pastry

Ingredients:

5 cups all-purpose flour (or, for gluten-free pastry, 5 cups gluten free 1-to-1 flour)
1¼ tsp salt
3 tsp granulated sugar
2/3 cup butter
2/3 cup lard
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3¾ tsp vinegar
Enough ice-cold water to make 1 cup liquid (combined with egg and vinegar)

For egg wash:  1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp water (optional)

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 1 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 into 20 equal pieces.  Form disk shapes with each piece. Wrap disks individually in plastic wrap or place, single layer, in large airtight container. Place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to chill. Remove one disk at a time from the refrigerator and roll pastry to desired thickness, generally between 1/16”and 1/8” thickness. Transfer pastry to a 4” or 5” 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 to keep chilled. Repeat with remaining disks.

Prepare pastry for the top crusts in the same manner as for the bottom crust.  Remove pie shells from refrigerator and equally divide cold chicken filling between the prepared cold shells. Brush outside rim edges of bottom crust pastry along pie plate edge with a bit of water to moisten. Transfer rolled-out pastry to the top of pie filling in each pie plate. Trim excess pastry flush with 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 each pie in several places with tines of a fork.

For pastry egg wash, lightly beat the egg yolk with 1 tbsp water in a small bowl.  With a pastry brush, lightly brush the pie with the egg wash.

Place pies in refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow filling to settle and to chill pastry to reduce shrinkage while pies bake.

While pies are chilling, place oven rack in lowest position in oven. Preheat oven to 425°F.  Place pies on large baking sheet(s) and bake for 10 minutes then lower oven temperature to 375°F and bake for approximately 35-40 minutes or until filling is bubbling through slits in tops of pies.  For unbaked frozen pies, bake at same temperatures for approximately 50-55 minutes, or until filling is bubbling through slits in tops of pies.

Yield:  Ten – 4 or 5-inch individual pies

Note:  If making this recipe gluten free, ensure that all ingredients, not only the flour, called for in the recipe are gluten free.

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Double-crusted Chicken Pot Pies

Individual made-from-scratch double-crusted Chicken Pot Pies are chock full of poultry and vegetables in a delectable creamy filling, all encased between tender flaky pie crusts. The supreme comfort food!
Course Main Course
Cuisine Canadian
Keyword Chicken, chicken pot pies
Servings 10
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 batch pastry recipe follows
  • tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ½ cup onion, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup carrots, diced into ¼“cubes
  • 2/3 cup celery, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup parsnip, diced into 1/8“ cubes
  • ¼ cup turnip, diced into ¼“ cubes
  • 2 oz cremini mushrooms, sliced or chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp dried summer savory
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 cup warm poultry stock, either chicken or turkey
  • 8 oz Russet potatoes, diced into ½” cubes (apx. 1 cup diced)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • tbsp butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour or 1-to-1 gluten-free flour
  • tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 cups warm poultry stock, either chicken or turkey
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream, 35% M.F.
  • tbsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • tbsp medium cheddar cheese, finely grated
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • tbsp dry white wine (optional)
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • cups cooked diced chicken
  • ½ cup frozen peas

Pastry:

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour or, for gluten-free pastry, 5 cups gluten free 1-to-1 flour
  • tsp salt
  • 3 tsp granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup butter
  • 2/3 cup lard
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • tsp vinegar
  • Enough ice-cold water to make 1 cup liquid (combined with egg and vinegar)
  • For egg wash: 1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp water (optional)

Instructions

  1. In large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat then add the butter. When butter is melted, add the onion, carrots, celery, parsnip, and turnip. Cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms, garlic, summer savory, oregano, and rosemary. Cook 2-3 minutes longer, stirring continuously. Add 1 cup chicken or turkey stock and the potatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat then reduce to low and simmer for approximately 8-10 minutes, or until vegetables start to soften. Remove from heat.
  2. While vegetables are cooking start preparing the sauce by heating second amount of oil in separate saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter. Stir in the flour and cornstarch (mixed together). Whisk in the remaining 2 cups of warm chicken or turkey stock along with the whipping cream, cheeses, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, white wine, cayenne, parsley, and salt and pepper. Reduce heat slightly and cook, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens to the consistency of a very thick chowder.
  3. Add the cooked chicken and frozen peas to the saucepan or Dutch oven containing the vegetables. Stir. Pour the sauce into the mixture. Stir. Remove from heat and cool for about ¾ hour at room temperature, stirring occasionally, then refrigerate until mixture is cold.

Pastry:

  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 1 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 into 20 equal pieces. Form disk shapes with each piece. Wrap disks individually in plastic wrap or place, single layer, in large airtight container. Place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to chill. Remove one disk at a time from the refrigerator and roll pastry to desired thickness, generally between 1/16”and 1/8” thickness. Transfer pastry to a 4” or 5” 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 to keep chilled. Repeat with remaining disks.
  4. Prepare pastry for the top crusts in the same manner as for the bottom crust. Remove pie shells from refrigerator and equally divide cold chicken filling between the prepared cold shells. Brush outside rim edges of bottom crust pastry along pie plate edge with a bit of water to moisten. Transfer rolled-out pastry to the top of pie filling in each pie plate. Trim excess pastry flush with 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 each pie in several places with tines of a fork.
  5. For pastry egg wash, lightly beat the egg yolk with 1 tbsp water in a small bowl. With a pastry brush, lightly brush the pie with the egg wash.
  6. Place pies in refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow filling to settle and to chill pastry to reduce shrinkage while pies bake.
  7. While pies are chilling, place oven rack in lowest position in oven. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place pies on large baking sheet(s) and bake for 10 minutes then lower oven temperature to 375°F and bake for approximately 35-40 minutes or until filling is bubbling through slits in tops of pies. For unbaked frozen pies, bake at same temperatures for approximately 50-55 minutes, or until filling is bubbling through slits in tops of pies.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Ten – 4 or 5-inch individual pies

Note: If making this recipe gluten free, ensure that all ingredients, not only the flour, called for in the recipe are gluten free.

 

 

Gluten-free Banana Date Muffins

Gluten-free Banana Date Muffin on breadboard with small bottle of peach jam and pat of butter. Mauve and purple floral coffee mug and purple French press coffee maker in background
Gluten-free Banana Date Muffins

Making gluten-free muffins can have its challenges!  Getting the right blend of flours, enough rising power to achieve the perfect contoured muffin tops, and the right balance of liquid to dry ingredients, and that’s all before getting a great flavour and texture. Good news, though, I have perfected a great flour blend for these Banana Date Muffins and have worked out the necessary ratios of wet to dry ingredients to accommodate the properties of gluten-free flours!

Large, perfectly domed Gluten-free Banana Date Muffins on a cooling rack surrounded by dates and a ripe banana
Gluten-free Banana Date Muffins

I am not a big fan of all-purpose gluten-free flour as the sole flour in a baking product. I find it can leave an unpleasant aftertaste on the palate. For this reason, I most often create my own flour blends based on what product I am making.  It takes a lot of experimentation and trial and error to find a pleasing flour combination when mixing different flours.  Each gluten-free flour comes with its own properties.

Top-down view of Gluten-free Banana Date Muffin on a wooden board with small jar of peach jam and a pat of butter
Gluten-free Banana Date Muffins

Banana muffins, whether they be wheat-based or gluten-free, can sometimes be tough and have a somewhat dense texture.  No one likes a tough muffin!  Over the years, I have discovered that adding too much mashed banana can create a tough muffin texture and be too overpowering in banana flavour.  Sometimes, less really is more.

Gluten-free Banana Date Muffin split in half to show interior of muffin with even distribution of dates
Gluten-free Banana Date Muffins

These Banana Date Muffins are hearty, perfect for taking along to work or school or enjoying any time, especially with a great cup of coffee.

They are also a great addition to a breakfast tray, especially on weekend mornings!

Gluten-free Banana Date Muffin on Breakfast Tray with a Carafe and Glass of Orange Juice, Plate of Fresh Orange, Grapes, and Yogurt, and French Press Coffee
Gluten-free Banana Date Muffin on Breakfast Tray

These muffins can be served at room temperature or heated for mere seconds in the microwave.  They are great with a slather of butter and/or your favorite jam or preserve.

Top-down view of three Gluten-free Banana Date Muffins on marble serving board surrounded by ripe banana and dates
Gluten-free Banana Date Muffins

[Printable recipe follows at end of post]

Gluten Free Banana Date Muffins

Ingredients:

½ cup gluten free all-purpose flour
2½ tbsp potato starch
¼ cup gluten free oat flour
¼ cup almond flour
½ cup sorghum flour
1¼ tsp zanthan gum
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp ground flax seeds
½ cup gluten-free quick rolled oats

1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1/3 cup coconut oil, melted and cooled
2 tbsp maple syrup
1½ tsp vanilla
3/4 cup mashed banana
½ cup Greek style vanilla yogurt
2 tbsp whole milk

¾ cup chopped dates

Method:

Preheat oven to 475°F.

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

Combine flours, zanthan gum, baking powder, soda, salt, ground flax seeds, and rolled oats 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, maple syrup, and vanilla.  Stir in the mashed banana, yogurt, and milk.

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

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 16-18 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.

Yield: 12 muffins

Gluten-free Banana Date Muffin on a marble serving board with muffins on a cooling rack in background
Gluten-free Banana Date Muffins

 

Gluten Free Banana Date Muffins

The perfect tender and moist Gluten-free Banana Date Muffins. 

Course Breakfast
Keyword Gluten-free Banana Date Muffins
Servings 12
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • ½ cup gluten free all-purpose flour
  • tbsp potato starch
  • ¼ cup gluten free oat flour
  • ¼ cup almond flour
  • ½ cup sorghum flour
  • tsp zanthan gum
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • ½ cup gluten-free quick rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar lightly packed
  • 2 large eggs room temperature, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil melted and cooled
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup mashed banana
  • ½ cup Greek style vanilla yogurt
  • 2 tbsp whole milk
  • ¾ cup chopped dates

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 475°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, baking powder, soda, salt, ground flax seeds, and rolled oats 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, maple syrup, and vanilla. Stir in the mashed banana, yogurt, and milk.
  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. Fold in chopped dates.
  6. 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 16-18 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

Yield: 12 muffins

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Gluten-free Banana Date Muffins

 

 

Mouthwatering Homemade Dinner Rolls

Cloth-lined basket filled with huge puffy dinner rolls
Homemade Dinner Rolls

It’s hard to beat the tantalizing scent of homemade bread or rolls baking in the oven.  It’s even harder to pass up the wonderful flavor of freshly made warm bread or rolls slathered with a generous spread of pure butter.  Do I have your attention yet?

Big batch of puffy homemade dinner rolls on a bread board set against a black backdrop
Mouthwatering Homemade Dinner Rolls

Some time ago, I shared my recipe for pull-apart pan rolls.  These are rolls that are baked all in one pan and they are simply pulled apart.  With the exception of those that line the outside edge of the baking pan, pan rolls do not have crusty sides.

Pan Rolls
Pan Rolls

Dinner rolls, baked in muffin cup pans, on the other hand, have a crust on them.

Close up photo of a large puffy golden-brown dinner roll on a bread board
Mouthwatering Homemade Dinner Rolls

Rolls do take a little bit of time to make but the end result is so worth the wait.   Ingredients for making rolls are simple and basic.  Milk, sugar, salt, butter, eggs, water, yeast, and flour.  As humble and plain as they may be, each of those ingredients plays an important role. The milk and butter produce a tender crumb; the sugar feeds the yeast, adds sweetness to the dough, and helps to create the lovely golden brown crust; the butter adds a soft, tender texture and flavor; the salt also adds flavor; and the eggs tenderize the dough, bind ingredients together, and add both flavor and richness.

Some rolls are made with water instead of milk.  Rolls made with milk will have a softer crust, finer crumb, and a more golden-brown color than those made with water.

A large homemade dinner roll split in half with a slather of butter and a slice of cheese on a bread board
Homemade Dinner Rolls

Let’s take the roll-making process, step by step.

Scalding the Milk and Preparing the Liquid Mixture

For this recipe, I recommend using 2% milk. Fat-free milk will not yield as rich and tender textured rolls.  It is important to scald the milk as this will result in light-textured rolls that will rise better than if unscalded milk is used.  This is because the scalding process will kill off, or deactivate, a whey protein in the milk that weakens gluten.  Without the gluten staying intact, it is likely the rolls will be very dense, heavy, and possibly somewhat doughy.  The texture we’re aiming for is a light, airy, and fluffy roll, almost weightless.

Homemade dinner roll split in two, slathered with butter and a chunk of cheddar cheese. Rolls, bottle of wine, and butter in background
Homemade Dinner Rolls

The scalded milk mixed with sugar, salt, and butter, however, must be cooled down to the temperature of the  water used to proof the yeast (explained in the next section).  The room temperature eggs should not be added to the milk-sugar-salt-butter mixture until that mixture has cooled down to 110°F (standard yeast rising temperature). This is because eggs added to hot liquid will cause them to start cooking. For this reason, begin the roll-making process by scalding the milk to 180°F, adding the sugar, salt, and butter, and letting the mixture cool down to 110°F.  Letting it get too cold will be too much of a shock for the warm yeast to which it will be mixed and may cause it to interfere with the successful rising of the dough. Mixing it hot with the yeast will kill the yeast and the dough, subsequently, will not rise.

Yeast

There are several different kinds of yeast and it’s important to use the specific one called for in a recipe.  For this Dinner Rolls recipe, use active dry yeast – no substitutes.  This will be clearly marked on the package, bottle, or bin (if you are buying it from a bulk food store).  Active dry yeast is a dormant kind of yeast that requires that it be rehydrated and “proofed” before being combined with the other ingredients. The yeast, for the benefit of those unfamiliar with baking with yeast, will resemble small granules or beads.
4-cup measuring cup with rising yeast inside
Proofing Yeast

Proofing means the yeast is added to warm water sweetened with sugar to feed the yeast and allowed to sit, untouched, for 10-12 minutes until it “blooms” as shown in the photo above. For lack of a better description, I would say that bloomed yeast somewhat resembles beer foam.
Measuring cup with proofed yeast
Yeast that has been Proofed

This is your assurance that the yeast is active and will make the dough rise.  If this does not occur, it means the yeast is inactive and will not cause the dough to rise.  Discard it in this case and try a new batch of yeast. It is not worth wasting the flour and other ingredients if the yeast has not bloomed as the dough will not rise.

I recommend a good candy thermometer, or digital food thermometer, be used to test the liquid temperatures.  Yeast needs the sugar to feed it but it needs to “bloom” in warm water.  If the water is not warm enough, the yeast will not activate and bloom; if the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast.  Around 110°F to 115°F is a good water temperature.  I start out with water at 115°F, knowing that the addition of the sugar and a stir of the spoon will drop the temperature just a bit. The yeast is sprinkled over the warm water and gently, but quickly, stirred into the water.  Once it has risen and become frothy (meaning it has “bloomed“), stir it down before combining with other ingredients.

Flour

Standard all-purpose flour is perfectly fine for this recipe.  Measure out the 7 cups called for in the recipe.  However, note that the dough may not require all 7 cups. I generally use about 6⅔ cups, mixing in just enough flour that the dough is still tacky but not peeling off on the surface when kneaded.

Mixing and Kneading the Dough

My Dinner Roll recipe can be made completely by hand or partially, or even fully, by a heavy-duty stand mixer.  The traditional way of making the rolls is to add the flour to the yeast and liquid ingredients and mix the dough completely by hand.  I have the Classic Kitchen Aid stand mixer model and I use it, fitted with the dough hook, for part of the process, completing the remainder by hand.

If you have one of the larger stand mixer models, it is possible to use the dough hook attachment and completely have the dough kneaded by machine.  I don’t find, for the quantity of flour, called for in this recipe, that I can adequately get a good knead done of the dough in my regular size mixer.  For that reason, I mix up to four cups of the flour called for in the recipe by mixer and then I transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and add the remaining flour by hand, kneading the dough at the same time.

Kneading develops the gluten that gives the dough its structure and elasticity as well as encourages proper rising of the dough. Using the mixer for at least part of the mixing process cuts down on the amount of kneading required by hand.

To knead the dough by hand, fold the dough in half toward you.  Use the heels of your hands to push the dough down and away from you. Slowly move the dough as you turn the dough by quarter turns while continuing to knead the dough in a rocking motion until it is smooth, elastic, and pliable.

Dough for rolls is softer than bread dough so it will seem a bit more sticky or tacky.  I would caution about adding too much flour as that will result in dry rolls.  Add only enough flour that the dough does not stick and stay on the counter when it is kneaded.  It should appear as though it would stick but then it peels away without leaving any dough on the surface.  The dough should feel smooth, elastic, and pliable when fully kneaded.

It’s hard to say exactly how long to knead the dough.  If you use the mixer for the first part, then hand kneading should take approximately 5-6 minutes.  If you are completely mixing and kneading the dough entirely by hand, it can take up to 8-10 minutes to get all the flour incorporated and a smooth, elastic dough. If you are kneading the dough entirely by mixer, beat it until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

First Rising  – Letting the Dough Rise (aka First Proofing or Bulk Fermentation) and Rest

Once the dough has been mixed, grease it all over to prevent it from drying out.  Place the dough into a bowl large enough that the dough can rise to double in bulk.  Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with cooking oil.

It is very important that the dough be provided with a warm, draft-free place in which to rise.  I put a towel or lightweight blanket over the plastic wrap and surround the bowl with a cozy blanket. I’d liken this to creating an incubator for the dough. This first rising process (sometimes referred to as the first proofing of the dough or bulk fermentation) will probably take 1¼  – 1½ hours.

However, that said, this is only a time guideline.  Go by the look of the dough – has it increased by double its original size?  That’s the simple test because several factors can influence the amount of time it takes for yeast dough to rise, including the room temperature and humidity.  You can also stick two fingers, up to about a couple of inches into the center of the dough.  If the imprint remains after the fingers are removed, the dough is ready to be punched down.  If not, cover the dough and let it continue to rise.

Risen yeast roll dough inside pink bowl
Roll Dough Risen to Double its Size

Once the dough has risen to double its size, use a fist and punch down the dough in the bowl. This is a good exercise if you have frustration to get rid of!  This action, though, releases the yeast’s gas bubbles and will help produce a finer textured crumb in the rolls.

Fist in center of risen dinner roll dough punching it down inside a pink bowl
Punching Down Risen Dough

Turn the dough out onto a greased surface and divide the dough into four equal parts, forming each into a loose circle.

Four rough circles of dough on beige counter
Roll Dough Resting Before Being Shaped into Dinner Rolls

Cover the rolls with tea towels to prevent the dough from drying out and let the dough rest for 15 minutes (it’s exhausted from the knock-out fight it just had with your fist!).  Essentially, this relaxes the dough and makes it easier to shape the rolls.

Shaping the Rolls

There are various shapes into which this dough can be formed.  It can be a single roll per muffin cup, two oval-shaped chunks of dough, or even three for cloverleaf-shaped rolls.  I typically form my rolls into “doubles”, meaning I use two equal amounts of dough per muffin cup.

Now, having made rolls for years, I do not normally measure out the weight of each chunk of dough for each roll.  I usually just, from experience, “eyeball” the size of dough needed. However, if you want to have absolutely perfectly sized rolls, the best way is to weigh the dough.  Each chunk of dough should weigh approximately 1 ounce if double rolls are being formed.

To shape the rolls, gather the edges of each chunk of dough toward the underneath center, gently pulling and stretching the dough as you go to make sure it is smooth and taut on the top of the roll, and shaping the roll into a slightly oval egg shape.

Place two oval shapes of dough, side by side, in each muffin cup that has been adequately greased.  Make sure the top surface of the muffin tin has been greased as well as these rolls do puff up and will, otherwise, stick to the pan top.

Two oval-shaped pieces of yeast dough placed in muffin cup
Rolls Shaped and in Muffin Cups

Second Rising (aka the Final Proofing Stage)

Cover the rolls with a tea towel and, again, place them in a draft free area to rise.  There is no need to put a blanket over them at this stage. I usually set my rolls on the counter and let them rise until they are double in size.  This can take upwards of 1 hour to 1¼ hours. Again, this is a guide only as room temperature and/or humidity will affect rising time.  When the rolls have risen to be twice the size they were when they were put in the pan, they are ready for the oven.  Almost there!

Baking the Rolls

About 15 minutes before the rolls are ready to be baked, preheat the oven to 400°F.  However, as soon as the rolls go in the oven, drop the oven temperature back to 375°F.  Bake the rolls about 15 minutes. If the rolls in the back of the oven start to brown too much, turn the pans around in the oven part-way through the baking.

If desired, and to give a glossy look to the rolls, brush the hot rolls with softened butter.  You can also use a piece of wax paper to rub the rolls with butter instead of using a brush.    Let the rolls rest in the muffin cups for about 5 minutes to set then carefully transfer them to a wire rack.

Lots of dinner rolls with butter, cheese, peach jam, and wine on a bread board
Homemade Dinner Rolls

 

[Printable recipe follow at end of posting]

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Mouthwatering Dinner Rolls

Ingredients:

1¾ cups milk (2%)
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tsp salt
¼ cup butter, softened at room temperature

2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten

½ cup warm water (115°F)
2 tsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp active dry yeast

Apx. 6⅔ – 7 cups all-purpose flour

Spray cooking oil
Vegetable oil for greasing dough and bowl
Shortening for greasing muffin cups

Softened butter for buttering tops of rolls

Method:

In medium-sized saucepan, over medium-high heat, bring milk to the scalding point (180°F), stirring frequently to prevent milk from scorching.  Do not boil the milk. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, salt, and butter.  Stir until butter has melted.  Let mixture cool to 110°F then whisk in the lightly beaten eggs.

While milk mixture is cooling, place the ½ cup warm water (115°F) in large 4-cup measuring cup or bowl.  Stir 2 tsp sugar into the warm water until sugar is dissolved.  Sprinkle yeast over the water and quickly, but gently, stir in the yeast.  Let stand 10-12 minutes until yeast is risen and foamy.

In bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook, combine the liquid ingredients with the yeast along with 2 cups of the flour gradually added. Beat on slow speed to blend ingredients then increase speed to medium (I use the “6” setting on my KitchenAid Classic mixer) and beat for 1 minute. Scrape the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.  Again, with mixer on slow speed, gradually add 2 more cups of flour. Increase speed to medium and beat mixture for 1 minute.  Transfer mixture to a lightly floured surface, using some of the remaining flour.  Begin kneading the dough by hand, continuing to add more flour until the dough is smooth, elastic, and pliable, about 5-6 minutes.  Dough should still feel tacky but will not stick to hands or peel on to surface. This is a softer dough than bread dough so be careful about adding too much additional flour. (Note: If you have a very large mixer, the dough can be completely kneaded by mixer; however, if you have a standard-sized Classic Kitchen Aid mixer, for example, it will be difficult to get the dough perfectly kneaded by machine with the quantity of flour called for in this recipe).

Grease a bowl large enough to allow the dough to double in size.  Grease all sides of dough with vegetable oil to prevent it from drying out and transfer dough to prepared bowl.  Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with cooking oil. Cover bowl completely with a towel or lightweight blanket and place in warm, draft-free location to rise until dough doubles in size, about 1¼ – 1½ hours.

Using either shortening or vegetable oil, grease the work surface.  Punch down dough in bowl with fist and turn dough out onto greased surface.  Divide dough into four equal portions. Form dough into large round shapes and let rest, covered with tea towels, for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, grease 28 muffin cups with shortening, ensuring the top surfaces around each muffin cup are also greased.

Cut off small chunks of dough with sharp knife.  For frame of reference, dough chunks should weigh approximately 1 ounce for double-shaped rolls.  To shape the rolls, gather the edges of each chunk of dough toward the underneath center, gently pulling and stretching the dough as you go to make sure it is smooth and taut on the top of the roll, and shaping the roll into a slightly oval egg shape. Place two ovals, side by side, in each muffin cup.

Cover rolls with tea towels and place in warm, draft-free location to rise to double in size, about 1 – 1¼ hours.

About 15 minutes before rolls are ready to be baked, preheat oven to 400°F. Transfer rolls to oven and immediately decrease temperature to 375°F. Bake rolls for approximately 15 minutes, or until rolls are golden brown on the top and hollow sounding when tapped with fingers. If the rolls at the back of the oven start browning too fast, rotate pans once during the baking. Gently brush tops of hot rolls with butter as soon as they come out of the oven. Let cool in pans for approximately 5 minutes to set then transfer rolls to wire rack to cool.

Yield:  Apx. 2⅓ dozen rolls

 

Basket of large homemade dinner rolls by a window
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Homemade Dinner Rolls

 

 

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Mouthwatering Dinner Rolls

Mouthwatering homemade dinner rolls have a lovely puffy loft and a fine tender crumb with a soft golden-brown crust.
Course Bread
Cuisine Canadian
Keyword Dinner Rolls
Servings 28
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • cups milk (2%)
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • ¼ cup butter, softened at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup warm water (115°F)
  • 2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp active dry yeast
  • Apx. 6⅔ – 7 cups all-purpose flour
  • Spray cooking oil
  • Vegetable oil for greasing dough and bowl
  • Shortening for greasing muffin cups
  • Softened butter for buttering tops of rolls

Instructions

  1. In medium-sized saucepan, over medium-high heat, bring milk to the scalding point (180°F), stirring frequently to prevent milk from scorching. Do not boil the milk. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, salt, and butter. Stir until butter has melted. Let mixture cool to 110°F then whisk in the lightly beaten eggs.
  2. While milk mixture is cooling, place the ½ cup warm water (115°F) in large 4-cup measuring cup or bowl. Stir 2 tsp sugar into the warm water until sugar is dissolved. Sprinkle yeast over the water and quickly, but gently, stir in the yeast. Let stand 10-12 minutes until yeast is risen and foamy.
  3. In bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook, combine the liquid ingredients with the yeast along with 2 cups of the flour gradually added. Beat on slow speed to blend ingredients then increase speed to medium (I use the “6” setting on my KitchenAid Classic mixer) and beat for 1 minute. Scrape the bowl to ensure all ingredients are incorporated. Again, with mixer on slow speed, gradually add 2 more cups of flour. Increase speed to medium and beat mixture for 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a lightly floured surface, using some of the remaining flour. Begin kneading the dough by hand, continuing to add more flour until the dough is smooth, elastic, and pliable, about 5-6 minutes. Dough should still feel tacky but will not stick to hands or peel on to surface. This is a softer dough than bread dough so be careful about adding too much additional flour. (Note: If you have a very large mixer, the dough can be completely kneaded by mixer; however, if you have a standard-sized Classic Kitchen Aid mixer, for example, it will be difficult to get the dough perfectly kneaded by machine with the quantity of flour called for in this recipe).
  4. Grease a bowl large enough to allow the dough to double in size. Grease all sides of dough with vegetable oil to prevent it from drying out and transfer dough to prepared bowl. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap that has been sprayed with cooking oil. Cover bowl completely with a towel or lightweight blanket and place in warm, draft-free location to rise until dough doubles in size, about 1¼ - 1½ hours.
  5. Using either shortening or vegetable oil, grease the work surface. Punch down dough in bowl with fist and turn dough out onto greased surface. Divide dough into four equal portions. Form dough into large round shapes and let rest, covered with tea towels, for 15 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, grease 28 muffin cups with shortening, ensuring the top surfaces around each muffin cup are also greased.
  7. Cut off small chunks of dough with sharp knife. For frame of reference, dough chunks should weigh approximately 1 ounce for double-shaped rolls. To shape the rolls, gather the edges of each chunk of dough toward the underneath center, gently pulling and stretching the dough as you go to make sure it is smooth and taut on the top of the roll, and shaping the roll into a slightly oval egg shape. Place two ovals, side by side, in each muffin cup.
  8. Cover rolls with tea towels and place in warm, draft-free location to rise to double in size, about 1 – 1¼ hours.
  9. About 15 minutes before rolls are ready to be baked, preheat oven to 400°F. Transfer rolls to oven and immediately decrease temperature to 375°F. Bake rolls for approximately 15 minutes, or until rolls are golden brown on the top and hollow sounding when tapped with fingers. If the rolls at the back of the oven start browning too fast, rotate pans once during the baking. Gently brush tops of hot rolls with butter as soon as they come out of the oven. Let cool in pans for approximately 5 minutes to set then transfer rolls to wire rack to cool.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Apx. 2⅓ dozen rolls NOTE: Be sure to read the accompanying blog post to this recipe as it gives tips and additional explanation for the technique for making rolls.

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

Homemade White Bread
Pull-apart Pan Rolls

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Mouthwatering Dinner Rolls

Creamy Scallop Carbonara Recipe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Printable recipe follows at end of post]

Creamy Scallop Carbonara

 
Ingredients:

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

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

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

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

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

1 tbsp butter

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

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

Method:

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

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

Heat oven to low “warming” temperature.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creamy Scallop Carbonara

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

Ingredients

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

Optional Garnishes:

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

Instructions

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

 

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

Plate of Carbonara with seared scallops and pea shoots

 

Gluten-free Gumdrop Cookies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tray of Gumdrop Cookies
Gluten-free Gumdrop Cookies

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Gluten-free Gumdrop Cookies

Ingredients:

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

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

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

Method:

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

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

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

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

Yield: Apx. 3 dozen

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

 

Gluten-free Gumdrop Cookies

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Recipe Notes

Yield: Apx. 3 dozen

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Classic Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Linzer Cookies
Classic Raspberry Linzer Cookies

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

Raspberry Linzer Cookies
Raspberry Linzer Cookies

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

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

Linzer Cookies
Raspberry Linzer Cookies

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

Linzer Cookies
Texture of Linzer Cookies

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

Linzer Cookies
Classic Raspberry Linzer Cookies

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

Linzer Cookies
Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Tips for Making Linzer Cookies

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Classic Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Ingredients:

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

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

Seedless raspberry jam (1/2  – ¾ cup)

Additional powdered sugar for dusting cookies

Method:

Sift dry ingredients together.  Set aside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yield:  Approximately 26 sandwiched cookies.

Classic Raspberry Linzer Cookies

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Recipe Notes

Yield: Approximately 26 sandwiched cookies.

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Linzer Cookies
Classic Raspberry Linzer Cookies

 

How to Make Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon
Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

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

Braising

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing the Meat

Both pork and beef are used in this dish.

Pork

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

Lardons
Pork Lardons

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

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

Lardons
Pork Lardons

Beef

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

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

Beef Cheeks
Beef Cheeks

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

Beef Cheeks
Beef Cheeks cut for Beef Bourguignon

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

Searing Beef for Beef Bourguignon
Searing Beef for Beef Bourguignon

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

Searing Beef for Beef Bourguignon
Searing Beef for Beef Bourguignon

Making the Bouquet Garni

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

Bouquet Garni
Bouquet Garni

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

Preparing the Braising Liquid

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

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

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

Beef Bourguignon
Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

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

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

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

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

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

Vegetables

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

 Beef Bourguignon
Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

Serving Suggestions

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

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

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

 Beef Bourguignon
Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

 

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

Beef Bourguignon
Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

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

[Printable recipe follows at end of post]

Beef Bourguignon

Ingredients:

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

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

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

1½ tbsp brandy (or red wine)

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

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

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

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

Method:

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

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

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

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

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

Preheat oven to 275°F.

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

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

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

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

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

Yield:  Apx. 8 servings

Beef Bourguignon

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Recipe Notes

Yield: Apx. 8 servings

 

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Beef Bourguignon
Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

 

Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

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

Chili
Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

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

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

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

Chili
Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

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

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

Chili
Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

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

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

Chili
Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

 

[Printable Recipe Follows at End of Post]

Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

Ingredients:

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

1 – 1½ tbsp oil
1 tbsp butter

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

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

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

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

Method:

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

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

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

Yield:  Approximately 6 servings

Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Recipe Notes

Yield: Approximately 6 servings

For my traditional Chili recipe, click here.

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Chili
Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

 

Classic Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup

Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup
Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup

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

Turkey Soup
Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup

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

Homemade Turkey Stock
Homemade Turkey Stock

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

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

Turkey Soup
Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup

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

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

Turkey Soup
Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup

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

Turkey Soup
Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup

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

Turkey Soup
Turkey Vegetable Soup

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

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

Turkey Soup
Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup

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

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

The Bistro’s Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup

Ingredients:

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

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

12 cups turkey stock

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

1¾ cups rutabaga, cut into bite-sized chunks

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

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

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

Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Bistro’s Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

Recipe Notes

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

 

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Turkey Soup
Homemade Turkey Vegetable Soup

 

Classic Sticky Date Pudding with Toffee Sauce

Sticky Toffee Pudding
Sticky Date Pudding with Toffee Sauce

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

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

Sticky Toffee Pudding
Sticky Date Pudding with Toffee Sauce

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

Sticky Date Pudding
Sticky Date Pudding

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

Sticky Toffee Pudding
Sticky Date Pudding

 

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

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

Ingredients for Pudding:

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

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

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

Ingredients for Toffee Sauce:

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

Method for Pudding:

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

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

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

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

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

Method for Toffee Sauce:

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

Yield:  10 servings

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

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

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

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

Ingredients

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

Ingredients for Toffee Sauce:

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

Instructions

Method for Pudding:

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

Method for Toffee Sauce:

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

Recipe Notes

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

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Sticky Date Pudding
Sticky Date Pudding

The Rumrunners – Rum and Raisin Cookies

Rum and Raisin Cookies
The Rumrunners – Rum and Raisin Cookies

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

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

Rum and Raisin Cookies
The Rumrunners – Rum and Raisin Cookies

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

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

Rum and Raisin Cookies
The Rumrunners – Rum and Raisin Cookies

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

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

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

Rum and Raisin Cookies
The Rumrunners – Rum and Raisin Cookies

I think the rumrunners would have approved of these cookies!

Rum and Raisin Cookies
The Rumrunners – Rum and Raisin Cookies

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

The Rumrunners’ Rum and Raisin Cookies

Ingredients:

½ cup sultana raisins
¼ cup dark rum

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

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

Method:

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

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

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

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

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

Yield:  Approximately 4 – 4½ dozen

The Rumrunners’ Rum and Raisin Cookies

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Recipe Notes

Yield: Approximately 4 – 4½ dozen

 

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Rum and Raisin Cookies
The Rumrunners’ Rum and Raisin Cookies

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Homemade Pure Vanilla Extract
Homemade Pure Vanilla Extract

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

Vanilla Beans
Vanilla Beans

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

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

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

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

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

Vanilla Beans
Vanilla Beans

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

Vanilla Beans
Vanilla Beans

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

Vanilla Bean Seeds
Vanilla Bean Seeds

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

Making Homemade Vanilla
Making Homemade Vanilla

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

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

Homemade Vanilla

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

Filtering Vanilla Extract
Filtering Vanilla Extract

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

Homemade Vanilla
Homemade Vanilla

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

Homemade Vanilla
Homemade Vanilla

 

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Vanilla
Homemade Vanilla Extract
Vanilla
Homemade Vanilla Extract

Classic Nanaimo Bars

Nanaimo Squares
Nanaimo Bars

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

Nanaimo Squares
Nanaimo Bars

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

Nanaimo Squares
Nanaimo Bars

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

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

Nanaimo Squares
Nanaimo Bars

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

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Nanaimo Bars

Ingredients:
 
Base:

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

Filling:

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

Topping:

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

Method:

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

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

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

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

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

Nanaimo Squares
Nanaimo Bars

 

Nanaimo Bars

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

Ingredients

Base:

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

Filling:

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

Topping:

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

Instructions

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

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

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

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

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

      Recipe Notes

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

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      Nanaimo Bars
      Classic Nanaimo Bars

      How to Make Homemade Applesauce

      Applesauce
      Homemade Applesauce

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

      Apples
      Mixture of Apples for Applesauce

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

      Applesauce
      Homemade Applesauce

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

      Applesauce
      Homemade Applesauce

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

      Applesauce
      Homemade Applesauce

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

      Applesauce
      Homemade Applesauce with an Extra Sprinkle of Cinnamon

      [Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

      Homemade Applesauce

      Ingredients:

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

      Method:

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

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

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

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

      Yield:  Apx. 7 cups

      Homemade Applesauce

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

      Ingredients

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

      Instructions

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

      Recipe Notes

      Yield: Apx. 7 cups

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      Applesauce

      Gluten Free Butter Tarts

      Butter Tarts
      Gluten-free and Lactose-Free Butter Tarts

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

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

      Butter Tarts
      Gluten-Free and Lactose-Free Butter Tarts

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

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

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

      Butter Tarts
      Gluten-Free and Lactose-Free Butter Tarts

      [Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

      Gluten-Free Lactose-Free Butter Tarts

      Ingredients:

      For Pastry:

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

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

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

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

      Method:

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

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

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

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

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

      Yield:  12 tarts

      Gluten-Free Butter Tarts

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

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

      Ingredients

      For Pastry:

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

      For Filling:

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

      Instructions

      For Pastry:

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

      For Filling:

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

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      Butter Tarts
      Gluten-Free Butter Tarts

      Classic Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup

      Classic Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup

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

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

      Cream of Broccoli Soup
      Classic Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup

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

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

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

      Prepping Broccoli for Soup
      Prepping Broccoli for Soup

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

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

      Cream of Broccoli Soup
      Classic Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup

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

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

      Cream of Broccoli Soup
      Classic Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup

      [Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

       Classic Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup

      Ingredients:

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

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

      Method:

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Classic Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup

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

      Ingredients

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

      Instructions

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

      Recipe Notes

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

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

      SOUPS

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

      CHOWDERS

      PEI Mussel Chowder
      Turkey Chowder

      STOCKS/BROTH

      Homemade Turkey Stock
      Homemade Beef Stock

      CHILI

      My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Chili

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      Broccoli Soup
      Classic Cream of Broccoli and Cheese Soup

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

      Turkey Sandwich
      Turkey, Pear, Brie, and Cranberry Sandwich

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

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

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

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

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

      Turkey Sandwich
      Turkey, Pear, Brie, and Cranberry Sandwich

      [Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

      Turkey, Pear, Brie, and Cranberry Sandwich

      Ingredients:

      2 slices bread of choice
      Butter, softened

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

      2-3 tsp mayonnaise

      Leafy lettuce of choice

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

      Method:

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

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

      Slice sandwich in half, diagonally, and serve.

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

      Serves:  1

      NOTE:  Sandwich may be heated in panini maker

       

      Turkey, Pear, Brie, and Cranberry Sandwich

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

      Ingredients

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

      Instructions

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

      Recipe Notes

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

       

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      Turkey Sandwich
      Turkey, Pear, Brie, and Cranberry Sandwich

      Roasted Potato Stacks

      Potato Stacks
      Roasted Potato Stacks

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

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

      Potato Stacks
      Roasted Potato Stacks

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

      Potato Stacks
      Roasted Potato Stacks

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

      Potato Stack
      Roasted Potato Stack

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

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

      Potato Stack
      Roasted Potato Stack

      [Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

      Roasted Potato Stacks

      Ingredients:

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

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

      Fresh thyme sprigs for garnish

      Method:

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

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

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

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

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

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

      Potato Stacks
      Plated Roasted Potato Stacks

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

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

      Roasted Potato Stacks

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

      Ingredients

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

      Instructions

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

      Recipe Notes

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

       

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      Potato Stacks
      Roasted Potato Stacks

      Classic Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

      Classic Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
      Classic Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

      When days are cooler, or downright cold, there is nothing better to warm the tummy than a bowl of comfort soup.  One of the soups I place in that category is homemade Roasted Butternut Squash Soup.  Full of flavour with a lovely velvety texture, Roasted Butternut Squash Soup has a rich natural golden-yellow color that can’t be beat!  This is a showstopper soup on both the taste and appetizing color fronts, the latter of which is drawn from the orange, fleshy pulp of the squash.

      Squash Soup
      Classic Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

      This soup offers a delicate balance of sweet and savory notes and, while it can certainly be made year-round, this soup is most often served in the fall because its ingredients speak to autumn flavours like the squash, apple, and root vegetables that are fresh and local in most places in autumn.

      Butternut squash is inexpensive, readily available year-round and, because of its bulk and substance, goes a long way as an ingredient in various dishes, including soup. That’s in addition to it being both healthy and delicious with its slightly sweet nutty flavour.

      Squash
      Butternut Squash

      Roasted Butternut Squash Soup freezes well, so long as it is made with whole milk (not fat-reduced) or, alternatively, with a blend of whole milk and cream. In fact, this soup has now joined the ranks of being one of my staples that I freeze in single-serving portions ready for weekday lunch bags. It’s lovely on its own or paired with a favorite sandwich. A real treat in the middle of a work day!

      Butternut Squash Soup
      Classic Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

      Roasting vegetables brings out deep, rich flavours that, in my opinion, are sometimes lost in other cooking methods like boiling, for example, where some of the flavour and nutrients get washed down the sink when the cooked vegetables are drained.  With roasting, all nutrients and flavours are retained.  Butternut squash is very easy to roast.  Simply slice the squash in half, vertically, and clean out the seeds and fibrous membrane.

      Squash
      Butternut Squash

      Lightly brush the cut sides and cleaned out hollow of the squash halves with a light coating of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place squash halves, cut side down, on greased tinfoil-lined rimmed baking sheet.  Bake at 425°F for about 35 minutes then flip the squash halves over, brush again very lightly with olive oil and roast for another 15-20 minutes, or until the flesh is soft when pierced with a fork. Make sure the squash does not start to burn or char.  If you see this happening, loosely place a piece of tin foil over the squash. Remove the squash from the oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes then, with a large spoon, scoop the pulp away from the skin and transfer to a bowl.  This can be done the day before the soup is made. Make sure to cover the squash and refrigerate it until needed.  Don’t let the squash cool completely before removing it from its skin as, otherwise, it will be difficult to remove it away from the skin (experience speaking here).  I like to roast the squash, cut-side down, because it keeps the moisture in and caramelizes the flesh of the squash.  I do, however, flip the squash halves over part way through the roasting process because I find it gives the squash a nice roasted flavour.

      Butternut Squash
      Roasted Butternut Squash

      I also find that roasting the squash whole versus cutting it into chunks is preferable.  First, it’s hard to cut uncooked squash but it is very easy to scoop out soft roasted pulp from the squash skin.  And, second, the roasting needs to occur at a reasonably high temperature and small chunks will burn easily and won’t have the caramelized flavour that can be achieved through the roasting process, particularly in the early stage where the squash is roasted, cut side down.  A lovely deep roasted flavour is the objective, not a burnt/charred taste.  This, to say, I think I have more control over the flavour if the squash is roasted whole.

      Squash Soup
      Classic Butternut Squash Soup

      The base for Roasted Butternut Squash Soup starts out like many other cream soups with the aromatics being sautéed till fragrant and starting to soften.  The chicken broth and seasonings are then added to the pot and the vegetables, along with the apple, continue to cook in the broth until tender.  I don’t add the squash into the soup at this point because I think that cooking it too long in the broth causes it to lose some of its rich caramelized/roasted flavour and, since it is already cooked, it is not necessary to cook it further.  The vegetable/broth mixture is removed from the heat and cooled for about 30 minutes – I don’t like to put hot mixtures into my blender jar. To speed up the cooling process of the broth, I often place the stockpot containing the vegetables and broth into a sink filled with ice cold water. The mixture does not have to be completely cooled, just not boiling hot.  Once cooled enough to work with and ready for puréeing, remove the bay leaves, stir in the roasted squash, then purée the whole mixture until velvety smooth.

      The puréed mixture goes back on to the stove with some maple syrup for a touch of sweetness and the whole milk (or a combination of whole milk and cream) along with a blend of Parmesan and cheddar cheeses. Continue to taste the soup throughout the cooking processes and add additional salt and pepper, to taste, if and as necessary. Heat only until the mixture is heated and the cheeses melted.  Never boil a cream soup.

      Squash Soup
      Classic Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

      Serve this soup plain or garnish it with seasoned croutons, a dollop of sour cream with a sprinkle of fresh herbs or toasted butternut seeds, or a toasted baguette slice topped with cheese, herbs, and bacon.

      Classic Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
      Classic Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

      Roasted Butternut Squash Soup is a rich, velvety-smooth and comforting soup that is filled with the wonderful flavours of autumn.  This luxurious, yet economical, cream soup is sure to be one you will make again and again, anytime of the year.

      Squash Soup
      Classic Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

      [Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

      Classic Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

      Ingredients:

      1 large butternut squash (apx. 3 lbs)
      Olive oil
      Salt and Pepper

      3 – 4 tbsp butter
      2 tbsp olive oil
      2/3 cup onion, finely chopped
      ¼ cup celery, thinly sliced
      ¼ cup carrot, thinly sliced
      ¼ cup parsnip, thinly sliced
      5 cloves garlic, minced

      4 cups chicken or turkey stock, homemade or store-bought
      1 small apple (any variety), peeled and diced
      3 bay leaves
      ¾ tsp dried summer savory
      ¼ tsp dried sage
      1/8 tsp nutmeg
      Pinch ginger
      Pinch cayenne (optional)
      Salt and freshly Ground Pepper, to taste

      2 tbsp pure maple syrup
      1¼ cups whole milk (or combination of whole milk and cream)

      2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
      ½ cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese

      Method:

      Preheat oven to 425°F.

      Wash butternut squash.  With large chef’s knife, slice the squash in half, vertically.  With large spoon, scoop out the seeds and fibrous matter from the interior of each squash half (save the seeds for roasting!)

      Prepare large rimmed baking sheet by lining with tin foil sprayed lightly with cooking oil.  Lightly brush the cut sides and scooped out hollow of the squash halves with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place the squash halves, cut side down, on the baking sheet.  Roast the squash in preheated oven for about 35 minutes. Remove the squash from the oven and, with a large flat lifter, carefully flip the squash pieces over, applying another light brushing of olive oil to the flesh side. Return the squash to the oven for about another 15-20 minutes, or until the flesh of the squash is very soft when pierced with a fork.  Remove from oven and let squash cool for 10 minutes or so.  Scoop out the flesh and place in medium-sized bowl.  (Do not let squash cool completely as it will be difficult to remove from its skin.)

      In large stockpot, heat the butter over medium heat till melted.  Add the olive oil.  Add the onion, celery, carrot, and parsnip.  Stir briskly for 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute, continuing to stir the mixture.

      Add the chicken stock, apple, and spices.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat then reduce heat to medium-low and cook until vegetables are soft, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for about 30 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaves.  Stir in cooked squash.

      Purée soup mixture in blender until very smooth.  Work in batches, starting with one cup of the mixture, puréeing it until smooth, then adding another 1 to 1½ cups, never filling the blender jug more than a scant half full at a time.  Transfer puréed mixture to clean stockpot. Add the maple syrup and milk.  Stir well.  Heat slowly over medium-low heat but do not boil.  Add the Parmesan and cheddar cheese.  Stir until cheeses are melted.  Serve plain or garnish with croutons and some toasted squash seeds, a dollop of sour cream with a sprinkle of fresh herbs, or a toasted baguette slice topped with cheese, herbs, and bacon.

      Yield:  Apx. 8-10 servings (apx. 1 cup per serving)

      Note:
      To make this soup lactose-free, use lactose-free butter, milk, and cheese.

      Classic Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

      This classic roasted butternut squash soup is luxuriously thick, velvety smooth, and is packed full of flavourful aromatics, light seasonings, and a blend of cheeses. Pure comfort food at its finest!
      Course Soup
      Cuisine American
      Servings 8
      Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

      Ingredients

      • 1 large butternut squash apx. 3 lbs
      • Olive oil
      • Salt and Pepper
      • 3 - 4 tbsp butter
      • 2 tbsp olive oil
      • 2/3 cup onion finely chopped
      • ¼ cup celery thinly sliced
      • ¼ cup carrot thinly sliced
      • ¼ cup parsnip thinly sliced
      • 5 cloves garlic minced
      • 4 cups chicken or turkey stock homemade or store-bought
      • 1 small apple any variety, peeled and diced
      • 3 bay leaves
      • ¾ tsp dried summer savory
      • ¼ tsp dried sage
      • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
      • Pinch ginger
      • Pinch cayenne optional
      • Salt and freshly Ground Pepper to taste
      • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
      • cups whole milk or combination of whole milk and cream
      • 2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
      • ½ cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese

      Instructions

      1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
      2. Wash butternut squash. With large chef’s knife, slice the squash in half, vertically. With large spoon, scoop out the seeds and fibrous matter from the interior of each squash half (save the seeds for roasting!)
      3. Prepare large rimmed baking sheet by lining with tin foil sprayed lightly with cooking oil. Lightly brush the cut sides and scooped out hollow of the squash halves with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the squash halves, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Roast the squash in preheated oven for about 35 minutes. Remove the squash from the oven and, with a large flat lifter, carefully flip the squash pieces over, applying another light brushing of olive oil to the flesh side. Return the squash to the oven for about another 15-20 minutes, or until the flesh of the squash is very soft when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven and let squash cool for 10 minutes or so. Scoop out the flesh and place in medium-sized bowl. (Do not let squash cool completely as it will be difficult to remove from its skin.)
      4. In large stockpot, heat the butter over medium heat till melted. Add the olive oil. Add the onion, celery, carrot, and parsnip. Stir briskly for 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, continuing to stir the mixture.
      5. Add the chicken stock, apple, and spices. Bring to a boil over medium high heat then reduce heat to medium-low and cook until vegetables are soft, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool for about 30 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaves. Stir in cooked squash.
      6. Purée soup mixture in blender until very smooth. Work in batches, starting with one cup of the mixture, puréeing it until smooth, then adding another 1 to 1½ cups, never filling the blender jug more than a scant half full at a time. Transfer puréed mixture to clean stockpot. Add the maple syrup and milk. Stir well. Heat slowly over medium-low heat but do not boil. Add the Parmesan and cheddar cheese. Stir until cheeses are melted. Serve plain or garnish with croutons and some toasted squash seeds, a dollop of sour cream with a sprinkle of fresh herbs, or a toasted baguette slice topped with cheese, herbs, and bacon.

      Recipe Notes

      To make this soup lactose-free, use lactose-free butter, milk, and cheese.

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

      SOUPS

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

      CHOWDERS

      PEI Mussel Chowder
      Turkey Chowder

      STOCKS/BROTH

      Homemade Turkey Stock
      Homemade Beef Stock

      CHILI

      My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Chili

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      Cranberry Blueberry Sauce

      Combining the sweet and tart flavors of blueberries and cranberries makes for a delectable cranberry blueberry sauce.  Their flavors play well off of each other. Most will be familiar with the traditional cranberry sauce that, for many, has to be part of a roasted turkey or chicken dinner.  Click here for my recipe for classic cranberry sauce.

      Cranberries
      Cranberries

      As a variation to that sauce, I have created a recipe using a blend of cranberries and high bush blueberries.

      Blueberries
      High Bush Blueberries

      This sauce, in a gorgeous deep burgundy-purple color, pairs well with poultry and even with beef and pork dishes.  The blueberries add a layer of natural sweetness to the sauce and pair well with the more tart cranberries, toning them down just a bit but still letting the cranberry flavor come through.

      Cranberry Blueberry Sauce
      Cranberry Blueberry Sauce

      The key to making a nice consistency sauce with blueberries and cranberries is to, first, make a simple syrup of water and sugar then add the cranberries that take longer to cook than the blueberries which are added to the late stage cooking.  The secret to getting a thickened sauce is to stir it both while it is cooking and cooling.  Stir it lots during the cooling process – it will appear quite watery when it comes off the stove but, by stirring it as it cools, you’ll be amazed how it thickens well.

      If I am plating a meal, I like to put the sauce in a small condiment dish on each plate.  This contains the sauce which, regardless how thick it is, tends to run into other foods on the plate.

      Cranberry Blueberry Sauce
      Cranberry Blueberry Sauce

      This sauce, like my traditional cranberry sauce, freezes well.  I make up a batch or two at a time and freeze it in airtight serving-size dishes – some are single serving, some are double, and some are larger size.  To thaw, simply remove the sauce from the freezer and thaw at room temperature for an hour or so (depending on the size of container, of course).

      [Printable recipe follows at end of post]

      Cranberry Blueberry Sauce

      Ingredients:
      2/3 cup granulated sugar
      1/3 cup light brown sugar
      1 cup water

      1½ cups cranberries, fresh or frozen
      ½ cup apple, finely chopped
      1/4 cup orange juice

      2/3 cup high-bush blueberries, fresh or frozen
      ¼ tsp cinnamon
      1/8 tsp nutmeg
      Pinch allspice
      1 star anise pod (optional)

      1 tsp finely grated orange rind
      Method:
      In medium-sized saucepan, bring sugars and water to boil. Boil, uncovered, for 5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.

      Add cranberries, apple, and orange juice. Bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat, stirring periodically throughout the cooking process for about 8 minutes then add the blueberries and spices. Increase heat to return mixture to boiling point then reduce heat to medium-low and continue to stir the sauce periodically while cooking it for another 10 minutes or until mixture thickens and blueberries have softened.

      Remove saucepan from heat and remove the star anise pod.  Add orange rind. Stir frequently as the sauce cools to help it to thicken.

      Store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for longer storage.

      Yield: Apx. 2 cups

      Cranberry Blueberry Sauce

      This cranberry blueberry sauce is the perfect blend of tart and sweet flavours. A great addition to any holiday dinner.
      Course Side Dish
      Cuisine American
      Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

      Ingredients

      • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
      • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
      • 1 cup water
      • cups cranberries fresh or frozen
      • ½ cup apple finely chopped
      • 1/4 cup orange juice
      • 2/3 cup high-bush blueberries fresh or frozen
      • ¼ tsp cinnamon
      • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
      • Pinch allspice
      • 1 star anise pod optional
      • 1 tsp finely grated orange rind

      Instructions

      1. In medium-sized saucepan, bring sugars and water to boil. Boil, uncovered, for 5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
      2. Add cranberries, apple, and orange juice. Bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, over medium-low heat, stirring periodically throughout the cooking process for about 8 minutes then add the blueberries and spices. Increase heat to return mixture to boiling point then reduce heat to medium-low and continue to stir the sauce periodically while cooking it for another 10 minutes or until mixture thickens and blueberries have softened.
      3. Remove saucepan from heat and remove the star anise pod. Add orange rind. Stir frequently as the sauce cools to help it to thicken.
      4. Store, covered, in refrigerator for up to 5 days or freeze for longer storage.

      Recipe Notes

      Yield: Apx. 2 cups

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      Cranberry Blueberry Sauce
      Cranberry Blueberry Sauce