Category Archives: Appetizers

Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini

If you are like me, you are always on the hunt for tasty little appetizers or hors d’oeuvres to serve at functions.

Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini
Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini

These easy-to-prepare savory little toasts are my latest creation and are packed full of flavor. Red onion, garlic, mushrooms, and red pepper are sautéed in butter and seasoned with nutmeg, summer savory, and thyme. The seasoned and sautéed vegetables are combined with cooked quinoa added for texture and visual appeal along with Parmesan cheese for additional flavor. The ingredients are bound together with chicken stock, cream, and maple syrup to add a touch of sweetness.

Spooned on to olive-oiled baguette slices, each crostini is topped with grated cheddar cheese.  For mine, I used a locally produced cheese –  Appletree Smoked Cheddar Cheese produced in PEI by COWS Creamery.

Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini Hors d'oeuvres
Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini Hors d’oeuvres

These hors d’oeuvres are easily made into a gluten-free version. Simply use a gluten-free baguette and ensure that all other ingredients are gluten-free.  One important factor to keep in mind with hors d’oeuvres is to ensure that they can easily be eaten with grace by guests – that means no huge chunks of ingredients that can pull apart when chewed into. Hors d’oeuvres should be able to be eaten with the use of only one hand.  While the mushrooms could be sliced, instead of chopped, for this hors d’oeuvre, they would need to be very small.

Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini
Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini

[Printable Recipe Follows at end of Posting]

 Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini

 Ingredients:

1½ tbsp butter
¼ cup red onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup white button and/or cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp red pepper, finely chopped
1/8 tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp dried summer savory
1/8 tsp dried thyme

4 tsp chicken stock
2 tbsp heavy cream
2 tsp pure maple syrup
¼ cup cooked quinoa
4 tsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

¼ cup grated Cheddar cheese

Fresh herbs for garnish

1 French baguette
Olive Oil for brushing on baguette slices

Method:

Over medium heat, melt butter in saucepan.  Add onions and garlic and sauté for 1 minute.  Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the red pepper, nutmeg, summer savory, and thyme.  Sauté for an additional 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.

In small bowl, combine the chicken stock, cream, and maple syrup.  Add the quinoa, Parmesan cheese, and sautéed vegetables.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and combine all ingredients well.

Slice baguette into 16 slices between ¼” and  ½” thick.  Brush each slice with small amount of olive oil.  Divide mixture evenly between the 16 slices.  Sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese.  Place crostini on baking sheet and broil for 1-2 minutes or just until cheese has melted.  Garnish with fresh herbs. Serve hot.

Yield:  16 appetizers

Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini

These easy-to-prepare savory little toasts are packed full of flavor.  Featuring mushrooms, quinoa, cheese, and select seasonings, these tasty bites are sure to be a favorite hors d'oeuvre at your next gathering.

Course Appetizer
Servings 16
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 cup white button and/or cremini mushrooms, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp dried summer savory
  • 1/8 tsp dried thyme
  • 4 tsp chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream
  • 2 tsp pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup cooked quinoa
  • 4 tsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Cheddar cheese
  • Fresh herbs for garnish
  • 1 French baguette
  • Olive oil for brushing on baguette slices

Instructions

  1. Over medium heat, melt butter in saucepan.  Add onions and garlic and sauté for 1 minute.  Add the mushrooms and sauté for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add the red pepper, nutmeg, summer savory, and thyme.  Sauté for an additional 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently.

  2. In small bowl, combine the chicken stock, cream, and maple syrup. Add the quinoa, Parmesan cheese, and sautéed vegetables. Season with salt and pepper to taste and combine all ingredients well.
  3. Slice baguette into 16 slices about 1/2" thick. Brush each slice with small amount of olive oil. Divide mixture evenly between the 16 slices. Sprinkle with grated Cheddar cheese. Place slices on baking sheet and broil for 1-2 minutes or just until cheese has melted. Garnish with fresh herbs. Serve hot.
Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini
Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini

PEI Mussels Steamed in Beer Recipe

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

My recipe for steamed mussels calls for some aromatics to build a flavor base in which to steam the tasty little morsels.  Aromatic cooking involves some type of fat or oil – I’m using butter in this recipe – combined with some aromatic vegetables and herbs.  In this case, I am using onion, celery, and garlic along with some fresh thyme. The combination of a fat product and heat help to release the wonderful aromas of ingredients and infuse dishes with fabulous flavors.  Ever walk into the tantalizing scent of a kitchen where onions and garlic are cooking in oil or butter? That’s aromatics at work.

Preparing this flavor base at the beginning of the cooking process adds depth and complexity to the dish. Since mussels cook rapidly,  chop the vegetables up somewhat fine as they need to release their flavors quickly in order to add flavor to the dish.

The fresh mussels should be rinsed under cold water before they are cooked.  If any of the shells don’t close up after this rinsing, tap the  shells lightly. If they still don’t close, discard them. Any “beard” on the mussels also needs to be removed.

Once the vegetables have been sautéed and released their flavors, it’s time to add a small amount of lemon juice and some beer to the mixture. The lemon juice adds fresh, crisp notes to the broth. This helps to balance the seafood qualities of the broth once the mussels are added. Beer adds both depth and complexity of flavor to the mussels which should be steamed in a very small amount of liquid.  If too much liquid is used, it will dilute the flavor altogether. It’s the steam, not the amount of liquid, that cooks the mussels. In this recipe, I have chosen to use a craft beer that has been brewed right here on Prince Edward Island at Upstreet Craft Brewing in Charlottetown (click here for my story on this brewery).  The strawberry and rhubarb flavored “Rhuby Social” witbier with its slight tartness pairs particularly well with seafood.

It’s important not to overcook the mussels as they will become tough. I find that 5-7 minutes is usually sufficient; however, the amount of steaming time depends on several factors including how many (and the size of the) mussels in the pot, the weight of the pot, and amount of heat over which they are steamed. The ultimate test of doneness is a peek inside the pot to see if the shells have opened.  It’s very important that, at the end of the steaming process, any shells that have not opened be discarded. If a shell has to be pried open, it is not considered safe for consumption.

These mussels can be eaten with bread dipped in the steaming broth.  Simply strain the broth to remove the vegetables and herbs. Alternatively, they can be eaten dipped in melted butter or even with a simple splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice.

(Printable recipe follows at end of posting)

PEI Mussels Steamed in Beer

Ingredients:
2 lbs. PEI mussels, rinsed and beards removed

1 tbsp butter
1/3 cup onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
4” piece of celery with leaves, chopped
½ tsp salt
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tsp lemon juice
1 cup Upstreet Craft Brewing’s “Rhuby Social” Beer

Method:
In medium-sized stock pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, garlic, celery and salt. Sauté, stirring briskly, just until onion has softened and has started to become transparent.  Add the thyme, lemon juice, and beer.  Increase the heat to high and bring liquid to a boil.  Add the mussels. Cover and steam the mussels for approximately 5-7 minutes, or until the mussel shells have opened.  Remove pot from heat and let mussels stand in broth for 1-2 minutes.

Remove mussels from broth with a slotted spoon and discard any shells that have not opened.  If desired, strain the broth and use for dipping bread to enjoy with the mussels.  Alternatively, melt butter in which to dip the mussels.

Yield: Apx. 2 servings

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Beer-steamed Mussels
PEI Mussels Steamed in Beer

Mussels Steamed in Beer Recipe

Yield: 2 servings

PEI Mussels steamed in an aromatic beer broth. Dip the mussels in melted butter for the ultimate treat.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. PEI mussels, rinsed and beards removed
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4” piece of celery with leaves, chopped
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup Upstreet Craft Brewing’s “Rhuby Social” Beer

Instructions

  1. In medium-sized stock pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, celery and salt. Sauté, stirring briskly, just until onion has softened and has started to become transparent. Add the thyme, lemon juice, and beer. Increase the heat to high and bring liquid to a boil. Add the mussels. Cover and steam the mussels for approximately 5-7 minutes, or until the mussel shells have opened. Remove pot from heat and let mussels stand in broth for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Remove mussels from broth with a slotted spoon and discard any shells that have not opened. If desired, strain the broth and use for dipping bread to enjoy with the mussels. Alternatively, melt butter in which to dip the mussels.
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The Bistro’s Best Deviled Eggs Recipe

The Bistro's Best Devilled Eggs
The Bistro’s Best Devilled Eggs

Devilled Eggs are so tasty and easy to make.  They are perfect for potlucks, picnics, snacks, and even appetizers or hors d’oeuvres.  And, of course, they are often found at many Easter gatherings.  To top it off, they are showy, too.  I have never taken a plate of these to any function and had any left over!

The Bistro's Best Devilled Eggs
The Bistro’s Best Devilled Eggs

There are many versions of this timeless food but I like them plain and simple and not too seasoned or spicy.  I do use a pastry bag and decorating tip to pipe the filling into the egg cavities.  However, you don’t have to have these tools. Simply spoon the filling into the egg cavity and swirl it around with the tip of a knife. With a sprinkle of paprika, some green herbs or green onions, you will have an attractive looking plate of devilled eggs.

The Bistro's Best Devilled Eggs
The Bistro’s Best Devilled Eggs

I recommend not sprinkling the eggs with paprika until serving time as, sometimes, the paprika can “bleed” and the eggs can have a smudgy red cast to them.

The Bistro's Best Devilled Eggs
The Bistro’s Best Devilled Eggs

(Printable version of recipe follows at end of posting)

The Bistro’s Devilled Eggs

Ingredients:

5 hard-boiled eggs, cooled, peeled, and sliced in half lengthwise
2 – 2½ tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp sour cream
½ tsp prepared mustard
1½ tsp onion, minced
¾ tbsp sweet pickle relish
2 tsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Pinch garlic powder
½ tsp fresh dill, chopped fine
¾ tsp fresh parsley, chopped
Pinch cayenne
Salt and pepper, to taste

Paprika
Fresh parsley, chopped
Sprigs of fresh herbs (optional)
Method:

Gently scoop out egg yolks and place in small bowl. Set egg whites aside.

Mash egg yolks with fork. Add all remaining ingredients. Mix well.

Fill egg white cavities with the devilled egg mixture using either a pastry bag fitted with a large decorative tip (I use a Wilton 6B tip) or, alternatively, use a spoon.

Refrigerate devilled eggs at least 1 hour before serving. At time of serving, sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and/or paprika. Garnish each with a small sprig of a fresh herb, if desired.

Yield: 10 servings (1 devilled egg each)

The Bistro’s Best Devilled Eggs

Yield: 10 servings

Serving Size: (1 devilled egg each)

Always a crowd pleaser, these devilled eggs are both tasty and easy to make.

Ingredients

  • 5 hard-boiled eggs, cooled, peeled, and sliced in half lengthwise
  • 2 – 2½ tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp sour cream
  • ½ tsp prepared mustard
  • 1½ tsp onion, minced
  • ¾ tbsp sweet pickle relish
  • 2 tsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • Pinch garlic powder
  • ½ tsp fresh dill, chopped fine
  • ¾ tsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Paprika
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
  • Sprigs of fresh herbs (optional)

Instructions

  1. Gently scoop out egg yolks and place in small bowl. Set egg whites aside.
  2. Mash egg yolks with fork. Add all remaining ingredients. Mix well.
  3. Fill egg white cavities with the devilled egg mixture using either a pastry bag fitted with a large decorative tip (I use a Wilton 6B tip) or, alternatively, use a spoon.
  4. Refrigerate devilled eggs at least 1 hour before serving. At time of serving, sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and/or paprika. Garnish each with a small sprig of a fresh herb, if desired.
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The Bistro's Best Devilled Eggs
The Bistro’s Best Devilled Eggs

Chunky Cranberry Salsa

Chunky Cranberry Salsa Hors d'oeuvre
Chunky Cranberry Salsa Hors d’oeuvre

By now, if you are a regular follower of this food blog, you have probably detected that I am a big fan of cranberries!  I am always developing recipes using these tasty morsels.

Chunky Cranberry Salsa
Chunky Cranberry Salsa

Today, I am sharing my newly-developed recipe for Chunky Cranberry Salsa. As its base, it uses my homemade cranberry sauce for which you can find the recipe here.  You need a good thick cranberry sauce for this, not a runny, watery version as many of the canned, commercial versions are. If a watery cranberry sauce is used, it will make the salsa too runny and messy. The photo below shows what the consistency of this salsa should be – it should “hold its own” and stay in place when used on nachos or crackers.

Chunky Cranberry Salsa
Chunky Cranberry Salsa

Any flavour of dry salsa seasoning available can be used in this recipe. I use the Epicure Brand, “Pico”, Salsa Mix which is a mild flavoring. If you are using another brand, or one that is quite spicy, just be aware that the amount this recipe calls for may not apply and you may need to adjust the amount you use.  Also, I use 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons of the Epicure “Pico” seasoning but that can be altered according to taste.  However, I suggest making the salsa first with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the seasoning and then adding more according to your personal taste.  As the old saying goes, you can add more seasoning but you can’t remove it if you put in too much!

Almost any flavour of balsamic vinegar can be used, even a traditional white balsamic. I have used a honey ginger balsamic vinegar from our local Liquid Gold and All Things Olive store here in Charlottetown as this vinegar flavour pairs particularly well with the other ingredients in this salsa.

Chunky Cranberry Salsa on Nachos
Chunky Cranberry Salsa on Nachos

I use this salsa on nachos but it is also exceptionally good served on gourmet crackers. Simply top each cracker with a small slice of Brie or Gouda cheese and some shaved turkey.  Add a small spoonful of the cranberry salsa and, voilà, an instant hors d’oeuvre. Once you have the salsa made, it makes a quick, easy, and tasty hors d’oeuvre.

Chunky Cranberry Salsa Hors d'oeuvre
Chunky Cranberry Salsa Hors d’oeuvre

With the jewel-toned color of this salsa, this hors d’oeuvre also looks very attractive on a serving tray.

Chunky Cranberry Salsa Hors d'oeuvres
Chunky Cranberry Salsa Hors d’oeuvres

This salsa often finds its way on to my charcuterie boards, too.

It can also be used to top baked chicken breasts or grilled pork chops. It’s very versatile, especially if you already have cranberry sauce made and in the freezer.  Simply let the cranberry sauce thaw at room temperature and then mix up the salsa. It’s best if the salsa can be made and refrigerated for a couple of hours before serving to allow the flavours to blend and mellow.

Chunky Cranberry Salsa

Ingredients:

1 cup cranberry sauce
¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
½ cup Granny Smith apple, finely chopped
1½  tsp sugar
1¾ tsp lime juice
1½ – 2 tbsp Epicure “Pico” Salsa Mix, or to taste
2 tsp Honey Ginger White Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
½ orange, finely chopped

Method:

In medium-sized bowl, mix all ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving to allow flavour to develop.

Serve with nacho chips. May also be served as an hors d’oeuvre: Place slice of Gouda or Brie on favorite cracker. Add shaved turkey topped with a small dollop of chunky cranberry salsa. Can also be used as a topping on chicken or pork.

Store in sealed container for up to two to three days in refrigerator.

Yield: Apx. 1 2/3 cups

Chunky Cranberry Salsa
Chunky Cranberry Salsa

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Chunky Cranberry Salsa

Yield: Apx 1 2/3 cups

Jewel-toned cranberries transform into a versatile and tasty chunky cranberry salsa

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cranberry sauce
  • ¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup Granny Smith apple, finely chopped
  • 1½ tsp sugar
  • 1¾ tsp lime juice
  • 1½ - 2 tbsp Epicure “Pico” Salsa Mix, or to taste
  • 2 tsp Honey Ginger White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tsp. finely grated orange zest
  • ½ orange, finely chopped

Instructions

  1. In medium-sized bowl, mix all ingredients together. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving to allow flavour to develop.
  2. Serve with nacho chips. May also be served as an hors d’oeuvre: Place slice of Gouda or Brie on favorite cracker. Add shaved turkey topped with a small dollop of chunky cranberry salsa. Can also be used as a topping on chicken or pork.
  3. Store in sealed container for up to two to three days in refrigerator.
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Chunky Cranberry Salsa
Chunky Cranberry Salsa

 

Chunky Cranberry Salsa
Chunky Cranberry Salsa

A Visit to the Barnyard Organics Farm in Freetown, PEI

I recently paid a visit to the Bernard family at Barnyard Organics in Freetown, PEI. Sally and Mark Bernard operate one of the largest (if not the biggest) organic farms on the Island and Sally and her daughter, Lucy, were my tour guides.

Sally and Lucy Bernard from Barnyard Organics
Sally and Lucy Bernard from Barnyard Organics

Sally (who grew up on a farm in New Brunswick) and Mark (from an Island farming family) met at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC) in Truro, Nova Scotia. Sally has an English degree from Mount Alison as well as a Plant Science Diploma from NSAC while Mark holds an Agricultural Business Diploma with a minor in Plant Science. In 2003, while still in college, Mark knew he wanted to pursue organic farming. His father had recently retired from farming so Mark began the groundwork for preparing the first 50 acres on his family’s farm to be taken out of conventional farming practices. The Bernards officially became certified organic farmers in 2006 and, since 2010, they have 550 organic acres on their farm and also rent additional acreage near Kensington.

Barnyard Organics, the name of the farm, is certified under Atlantic Certified Organics (ACO), a certification body which is accredited with the Canadian federal government. This body enforces the national organic standards such as buffer zone requirements from surrounding farms using conventional farming methods and it provides a list of approved substances that can be used in organic farming. As such, the farm is required to keep records of any products or substances used. In order to remain certified organic, the Bernards are subject to yearly inspections from ACO.

The main focus of the farm is on growing grains that include soybean, barley, wheat, oats, field peas, buckwheat, and clover. More than half of the grains are sold to small-scale organic producers in the Maritimes as a complete mixed animal feed. The remaining half goes to Speerville Flour Mill in New Brunswick and to brokers in Quebec and Ontario. Of note, 35-40 acres of the farm are dedicated to growing wheat specifically for bread. In fact, a nearby neighbour, Coral Wood, uses wheat from Barnyard Organics in her Whole Grain Bakery.

The Whole Grain Bakery Bread made with Grain Grown on Barnyard Organics Farm
The Whole Grain Bakery Bread made with Wheat Grown on Barnyard Organics Farm in Freetown, PEI

In addition, the Bernards also have both meat birds and about 150 laying hens.

The meat birds are raised on a portable pasture system which means the shelters they live in are moved each day so the birds always have fresh grass to nibble on.

The laying hens are completely free range so they have unfettered roaming privileges in a field nearest the farm buildings. They then take up winter residence inside a barn.

These are their summer condos!

This is where the flock hangs out when they are not out roaming about the field.

 

And, this is what is found on the other side of the “condos”.

Baby chicks on the farm!

Both meat and laying birds are raised on organic grains grown on the farm so the Bernards know exactly what their fowl are fed and customers can be assured the chickens and eggs are organic and of the highest quality.

About 90% of their meat birds and eggs are direct marketed to customers through CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares. This is a program whereby consumers (sometimes referred to as shareholders) invest in their food system by paying, the producer, upfront, for a season of fresh farm products. In exchange, the producer agrees to employ good farming practices to ensure a food supply and commits to sharing the resulting farm produce with those shareholders. This method of farming gives the farmer operating capital to buy supplies and run the farm and, in turn, CSA customers get quality fresh produce – in this case, fresh organic chickens and eggs from the Bernards.

Barnyard Organics currently has 100 CSA members and delivers to customers every two weeks in both Charlottetown and Summerside, alternating week about. Sally packages her fresh chickens and eggs, loads up her trolley fitted with refrigeration, and heads off with her deliveries.

Through the CSA market method, Sally gets to know her customers directly and they get to meet with the producer of their food and have the opportunity to put money directly into the producer’s hands with no middle parties. In addition, this customer-producer interaction provides the opportunity for customers to know where their food comes from and learn how it is produced. For the producer, this method allows for face-to-face feedback on products.

The remaining 10% of the farm’s products are sold to customers who regularly drop by the farm to pick up their farm-fresh eggs and chickens from the large cooler the family installed on the farm.

Barnyard Organics also has a small provincially-inspected processing plant where they process approximately 60 chickens a week, ready for distribution to their customers.

Farming organically is not without its challenges. For example, the Bernards don’t use chemical treatments that conventional farmers do so they can’t buy just any kind of fertilizer for their fields. Instead, they use mussel shell waste as well as manure from a nearby dairy farm; however, the manure needs to first be composted before being spread on the fields because it is not organic.

The farm also has its own grain dryer and soybean roaster which are needed because the Bernards can’t take their product to any local commercial dryers or roasters because of potential cross-contamination with non-organic grains.

Sally says their greatest satisfaction comes from knowing they have healthy soil on their farm to produce healthy food. The Bernards practice healthy crop rotation and focus on feeding the soil, not taking from it and depleting its goodness.

Lucy Bernard
Lucy Bernard

In particular, Sally derives great satisfaction from seeing their children interact with farm life. Because she home schools the children, they are exposed each and every day to experiential learning on the farm. Even 7-year old Lucy is already involved with organic farming. She takes the livers and hearts of the processed chickens, dehydrates them, and sells them for organic dog food. Lucy is also helping with the chicken business on the farm, too, and happily moves about the field of hens.

Sally jokes that Lucy could give the tour of the farm as well as she can and says their children are so acclimatized to farm life that they don’t even know that not everyone knows what life on a farm is like.

This summer Sally started a “Rent-A-Chicken” project that was so popular, she ended up with a waiting list. Essentially, the initiative allowed people to have a couple of chickens in their own backyards from June until October, enjoy the eggs, and then return the chickens to the Bernards in the fall without having to worry about what to do with the birds in the winter. The Bernards delivered, to renters, a small, portable chicken coop, two laying hens, feed and grit, food and water dishes, and a guide for raising hens.

Sally Showing one of the Portable Chicken Coops that are part of her "Rent-A-Chicken" Package
Sally showing one of the portable chicken coops that are part of her “Rent-A-Chicken” Package

Ideally, each hen could be expected to lay six eggs a week so renters have a dozen fresh organic eggs every week.

In the fall, the Bernards will pick up the birds and take them back to the farm. Cost for the package for the 2015 season was around $300. Feedback has been very positive and, in fact, some folks have already asked that the birds be banded so they can have the same ones back next year!

To find out, from a renter’s perspective, what the chicken rental experience was like, I met with Shirley Gallant who had two birds rented from the Bernards this summer.

As soon as she heard of the opportunity, Shirley knew it was for her as she had had a few hens in her backyard some years ago but wintering them was a problem for her. Because the Bernards will collect the two hens in the fall, Shirley has been able to have the hens for the summer and enjoy their eggs with no worries about what to do with the hens over the winter. The two hens happily roam around Shirley’s yard during the day and then retire to their coop for the night.  For Shirley, the experience has been very positive and she says she would do it again because “the hens are fun to have around” and she has fresh eggs for her organic diet.

Shirley Gallant with one of her rented chickens from Barnyard Organics
Shirley Gallant with one of her rented chickens from Barnyard Organics

Barnyard Organics farm does offer tours but the Bernards appreciate advance reservations as this is a busy working farm and family. For more information on Barnyard Organics, visit their website.

As is my standard practice when I visit a local food producer, I like to create a recipe using and featuring one of their products. I have chosen to use the brown eggs to make devilled eggs.  These eggs have gorgeous vibrant yellow yolks so they make colorful devilled eggs.

Devilled Egg
Devilled Egg
The Bistro’s Devilled Eggs

Ingredients:

5 hard-boiled eggs, cooled, peeled, and sliced in half lengthwise
2 – 2½ tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp sour cream
½ tsp prepared mustard
1½ tsp onion, minced
¾ tbsp sweet pickle relish
2 tsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated
Pinch garlic powder
½ tsp fresh dill, chopped fine
¾ tsp fresh parsley, chopped
Pinch cayenne
Salt and pepper, to taste

Paprika
Fresh parsley, chopped
Sprigs of fresh herbs (optional)
Method:

Gently scoop out egg yolks and place in small bowl. Set egg whites aside.

Mash egg yolks with fork. Add all remaining ingredients. Mix well.

Fill egg white cavities with the devilled egg mixture using either a pastry bag fitted with a large decorative tip (I use a Wilton 6B tip) or, alternatively, use a spoon.

Refrigerate devilled eggs at least 1 hour before serving. At time of serving, sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and/or paprika. Garnish each with a small sprig of a fresh herb, if desired.

Yield: 10 servings (1 devilled egg each)

Devilled Eggs
Devilled Eggs
Devilled Eggs
Devilled Eggs

 

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Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.  If you enjoyed this posting and recipe, please share it on your social media websites.

Connect with “the Bistro” through the following social media:

Join My Island Bistro Kitchen on Facebook

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Devilled Eggs
Devilled Eggs

 

Devilled Eggs

Yield: 10 servings (1 devilled egg per serving)

Ingredients

  • 5 hard-boiled eggs, cooled, peeled, and sliced in half lengthwise
  • 2 – 2½ tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp sour cream
  • ½ tsp prepared mustard
  • 1½ tsp onion, minced
  • ¾ tbsp sweet pickle relish
  • 2 tsp Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • Pinch garlic powder
  • ½ tsp fresh dill, chopped fine
  • ¾ tsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • Pinch cayenne
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Paprika
  • Fresh parsley, chopped
  • Sprigs of fresh herbs (optional)

Instructions

  1. Gently scoop out egg yolks and place in small bowl. Set egg whites aside.
  2. Mash egg yolks with fork. Add all remaining ingredients. Mix well.
  3. Fill egg white cavities with the devilled egg mixture using either a pastry bag fitted with a large decorative tip (I use a Wilton 6B tip) or, alternatively, use a spoon.
  4. Refrigerate devilled eggs at least 1 hour before serving. At time of serving, sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley and/or paprika. Garnish each with a small sprig of a fresh herb, if desired.
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A Visit to Barnyard Organics, Freetown, PEI
A Visit to Barnyard Organics, Freetown, PEI

Sausage-Stuffed Cremini Mushroom Caps

Sausage-stuffed Cremini Mushroom Caps
Sausage-stuffed Cremini Mushroom Caps

I was recently contacted by Laure Solange Tchamdja, President and CEO of Aldanel Authentic Foods, of Charlottetown, PEI, to let me know about her new line of tomato sauces being produced right here on PEI. I sat down for a chat with Tchamdja to find out more about the sauces.

In October, 2013, Tchamdja began producing tomato sauce. The company manufactures five varieties of their tomato-based sauces, all sold in 240ml bottles: Tomato Celebration, Spinach Carnival, Chili Tango, Carrot Symphony, and Rouge Poivron. Over the period of some nine months in the lab, the BioFood Technology plant on the UPEI campus in Charlottetown helped Tchamdja convert her family recipe into a commercial product suitable for the retail market. As the company does not presently have its own manufacturing plant, the sauces are produced at the BioFood Technology plant on the UPEI campus in Charlottetown.

Tchamdja wanted to create a tomato sauce product that is safe and healthy, not too spicy, and that would help working women, young professionals, and students prepare healthy meals at home. She says her products are versatile and multipurpose and one does not have to be a chef to use them. They can be used directly from the bottle as pasta sauces, added to soups and vegetables, used as a condiment for meat and fish, as a sauce for pizza, on nachos, and even as marinades for meat and fish. So, the product can be used as is without having to cook it again or it can be used as an ingredient in a recipe. Tchamdja says her products are all natural with no preservatives and are low in sugar.

Initially, Tchamdja sold her tomato sauces at local PEI shops such as Riverview Country Market. She has since expanded her markets to include Sobey’s and Co-op Supermarkets, Pete’s Frootique in Halifax, and Winners and Home Sense stores in Eastern Canada.

The products are sold under the Aldanel™ label, the letters for which are formed from those found in the names of her children. Depending on the retailer, prices per 240 ml bottle range from $4.49 to $5.99 (as of the time of writing).

Tchamdja offered me some complimentary samples of her Tomato Celebration sauce to try. Tchamdja is correct – I found the sauce to be a versatile ingredient in several dishes. I have used it as a pizza sauce and found it very tasty. I have also used it in a recipe I created for  baked stuffed fingerling hors d’oeuvres. And, I have used it as an ingredient in the following recipes for sausage-stuffed cremini mushroom caps.

My recipe for stuffed mushrooms is suitable for hors d’oeuvres or, add a tomato sauce, and they turn into an appetizer.

I have chosen to use cremini mushrooms but white button mushrooms would also work.  As well, any kind of sausage can be used – I have chosen to use sun-dried tomato sausage from KJL Meats here in Charlottetown.  The herb and garlic Gouda cheese I used is from Glasgow Glen Farm in New Glasgow, PEI. The tomato sauce that I am featuring in both recipes is Aldanel’s “Tomato Celebration” variety but any of their other sauces would work well, too.

Sausage-stuffed Cremini Mushroom Caps
Sausage-stuffed Cremini Mushroom Caps

Stuffed Cremini Mushroom Caps (Hors d’oeuvres)

1 tsp olive oil
½ tsp butter

12 medium-sized cremini mushrooms, washed, dried, and de-stemmed (reserve the stems)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1½ tbsp onion, finely chopped
2 oz. sun-dried tomato sausage, removed from casing and loosely broken up
2 tbsp Ardanel™ tomato sauce
2 tsp truffle aioli
½ tsp basil
½ cup fine breadcrumbs
2 tbsp shredded Gouda cheese
1 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Trim and discard ends from mushroom stems.

Remove the stems from the mushroom caps and place mushroom stems into bowl of small food processor. Pulse until mixture is finely chopped.

Add garlic, onion, and sausage and pulse just until mixture is combined.

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Heat oil in small frypan. Add butter.

Add mushroom-sausage mixture and cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, or until sausage meat is no longer pink.

Transfer mixture to small bowl.

Add the tomato sauce.

Add truffle aioli, basil, breadcrumbs, and cheeses along with salt and pepper to taste.

Place mushroom caps on parchment-lined baking sheet. Stuff each mushroom cap with mixture, slightly mounding the top. Sprinkle with finely grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake for about 12 minutes. Garnish with fresh chives, sliced green onion, or parsley, if desired.  Serve immediately.

Yield: 12 hors d’oeuvres

Sausage-stuffed Cremini Mushroom Caps
Sausage-stuffed Cremini Mushroom Caps

Stuffed Cremini Mushroom Caps with Tomato Sauce (Appetizer)

12 sausage-stuffed cremini mushroom caps (recipe above)

Tomato Sauce:

½ tbsp butter
1½ tbsp flour
½ cup chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup light cream or milk
¼ cup Ardanel™ tomato sauce
½ tsp Italian seasoning
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup shredded Mozarella cheese

Method:

Over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in flour.

Whisk in the broth and milk until mixture is smooth.

Stir briskly until mixture starts to thicken then add the tomato sauce, Italian seasoning, and cheeses.

 

Stir until cheese is melted and sauce is thickened to desired consistency.

Grease four oven-safe appetizer-sized baking dishes. Place three stuffed mushrooms into each dish.

Pour the sauce over the mushrooms, dividing it equally between the four dishes.

Sprinkle with shredded mozzarella cheese.

Broil on high for about 5-6 minutes, until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbling. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4 appetizer servings

Sausage-stuffed Cremini Mushroom Caps in Tomato Sauce
Sausage-stuffed Cremini Mushroom Caps in Tomato Sauce

To learn more about the Aldanel tomato sauce products, visit their website.

This recipe is also being submitted for the Foodie Pages CHEF’S BOX Challenge.

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Baked Stuffed Fingerlings

Baked Stuffed Fingerling
Baked Stuffed Fingerling

I love miniature potatoes. They’re fun to work with. They make wonderful hors d’oeuvres, are the perfect size for roasting, and are the ideal size to drop into soups just the way they are without cutting them up.

Through the Food Bloggers of Canada association of which I am a member, an opportunity arose this fall to take little creamer potatoes produced by the Little Potato™ Company of Alberta and create an original recipe using the potatoes. Coming into the Christmas party season, I immediately saw them as potential hors d’oeuvres.

Stuffed Baked Fingerlings
Stuffed Baked Fingerlings

The Little Potato™ Company grew their first acre of tiny potatoes in 1996. A father and daughter team, Jacob Van der Schaaf and Angela Santiago, planted, weeded, and harvested the first crop by hand. It was a success and soon Angela began marketing the potatoes at Farmers Markets and to restaurants.

The tiny potatoes grew in such popularity that production expanded and, today, the Little Potato™ Company grows six varieties of the little gems which are available at grocery stores across North America, including at the local Co-op store in my hometown of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. The produce manager at the Co-op Food Market on Walker Drive tells me that these potatoes have quite a loyal following of consumers on the Island.  To learn more about The Little Potato™ Company and their various varieties of miniature potatoes, visit their website.  You can also find them on Facebook.

The Little Potato Company varieties of potatoes available at the Co-op Food Market on Walker Avenue in Charlottetown, PEI
The Little Potato Company varieties of potatoes available at the Co-op Food Market on Walker Avenue in Charlottetown, PEI

Two bags each of Little Potato™ Company yellow fingerlings and Something Blue® mini potatoes arrived via UPS at my door one evening. I was thrilled that the oblong fingerlings were sent since they are the perfect shape and size to use when making miniature stuffed baked potato hors d’oeuvres. The recipe I have created especially for these little creamer potatoes can also be used to stuff mini round potatoes as well but the shape of the fingerlings really lends them to being stuffed attractively.

I have used some fine PEI products in the tasty filling I created for the potatoes. The sausage came from KJL Meats in Charlottetown, the herb and garlic mild gouda cheese from Cheeselady’s Gouda now being produced in New Glasgow, and a brand new product on the market – Aldanel™ “Tomato Celebration” tomato sauce made in Charlottetown.

Any flavour of sausage can be used in this recipe. My choice is sweet Italian but, if you like hot flavours, then chipotle would be a good option. The sausage needs to be removed from its casing and it is important to break up the sausage meat really well as it is being scramble-fried because it is going to be piped through a pastry bag. Also, its purpose is to add flavour to the filling and a large chunk of sausage is not desirable in a tiny hors d’oeuvre.

It’s also necessary to extract as much fat as possible from the cooked sausage as the fat can drip through the potato skin and make a messy hors d’oeuvre. To remove the fat, let the cooked sausage drain in a colander for about 15 minutes then wrap the meat in paper towel, repeating the process a couple of times, if necessary, to remove the excess fat.

The little fingerlings take about 15 minutes to cook. Once they are removed from the boiling water, just barely let them cool enough that they can be handled. Slice each fingerling in half, horizontally. Then, using a melon baller, remove the potato pulp, leaving about a 1/16th inch thick wall of potato in each half to give the potato shape. Transfer the potato pulp to a potato ricer.

Press the potato through the ricer into a small bowl. The potatoes can be mashed instead of ricing but the potato ricer gives a smoother, finer texture that is completely lump-free.

Add the remainder of the ingredients to the riced potato and mix well.

The filling can be transferred to the potatoes with a spoon but a piping bag and Wilton tip 8B makes the job quicker, easier, and will give a neater presentation.

Add a sprinkle of paprika, and pop these little hors d’oeuvres into a 375ºF oven for about 12 minutes. Use either a parchment-lined baking sheet to bake the stuffed potatoes or, if you have a baguette pan, it works really well, too.

Garnish, if desired, with a sliver of green onion or chopped chives, then serve to the delight of guests at your next party.

Stuffed Baked Fingerling Hors d'oeuvre made with potatoes from The Little Potato Company
Baked Stuffed Fingerling Hors d’oeuvres made with potatoes from The Little Potato Company

Baked Stuffed Fingerlings

Ingredients:

1 – 4 oz sausage (e.g., Sweet Italian, Sun-dried Tomato, Chipotle, etc.)
1 tsp olive oil

12 Little Potato Company fingerling creamer potatoes
½ tsp liquid chicken bouillon
½ tsp minced garlic
1 green onion, finely chopped
1½ tsp truffle aioli
2 tbsp sour cream
3 tbsp Cheeselady’s Herb & Garlic Mild Gouda cheese, finely grated
1½ tsp Aldanel™ “Tomato Celebration” tomato sauce
⅛ tsp basil
Salt and pepper, to taste
Paprika
Slivers of green onion tops or chopped chives for garnish

Method:

Heat olive oil in small frypan. Remove sausage from casing and crumble. Add to hot oil. With the end of a flat, heat-resistant lifter or spatula, continue to break up the sausage as it cooks. Scramble fry until sausage is brown, approximately 7-10 minutes. Transfer sausage to a colander and let fat drip out for about 10-15 minutes. Then, roll the cooked sausage in paper towel to remove any remaining fat. Set aside.

Cook fingerling potatoes in boiling water for about 15 minutes or until fork tender. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

As soon as the potatoes are just cool enough to handle, cut each in half, horizontally. Using a melon baller, remove the potato pulp from the skin, leaving about a 1/16th inch thick wall of potato in each half to give the potato shape. Transfer potato pulp to a potato ricer. Press pulp through ricer into small bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix until incorporated.

Transfer mixture to a pastry bag fitted with Wilton tip 8B. Pipe filling into each fingerling half. Sprinkle with paprika. Place mini stuffed potatoes on a parchment-lined baking sheet or in the cradle of a baguette pan. Bake in preheated oven for about 12 minutes. Remove and garnish with a sliver of green onion or chopped chives. Serve hot.

Yield: 24 hors d’oeuvres

Disclosure:  The potatoes used in this recipe were provided to me, free of charge, from The Little Potato™ Company for the purposes of sampling them and creating a recipe with them.  The recipe for Baked Stuffed Fingerlings in this posting is an original recipe developed by me in my home kitchen.

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Summer Garden Vegetable Dip

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

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

Dragon Tongue Beans
Dragon Tongue Beans

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

Orange Cauliflower
Orange Cauliflower

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

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

Variety of Cherry Tomatoes
Variety of Cherry Tomatoes

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

Summer Garden Vegetable Dip
Summer Garden Vegetable Dip

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

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

Summer Garden Vegetable Dip

Ingredients:

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

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

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

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

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

Serve with your favourite selection of garden vegetables.

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

Yield: Apx. 2 cups

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

Ice in container for dip
Ice in container for dip

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

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

PEI Mussels Steamed in Beer
PEI Mussels Steamed in Beer

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

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

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

Food Day Canada Menu 2014

Starter

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

Main

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

Dessert

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

 Wine Pairing

Chardonnay Seyval Blanc, Newman Estate Winery, Gladstone, PEI

Starter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Main Course

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

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

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

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

Pan-seared PEI Scallops
Pan-seared PEI Scallops

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

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

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

Dessert

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

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

Haskap Shortcake
Haskap Shortcake

Wine Pairing

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


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

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

Steamed Mussels – My Island Bistro Kitchen Style

Ingredients:

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

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

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

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

Add mussels.

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

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

Yield: 2 appetizer-sized servings.

 

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Old-Fashioned Scottish Oatcakes

 

Old-fashioned Oatcakes served with Brie and J.J. Stewart's Cranberry Champagne and Crystalized Ginger Preserves
Old-fashioned Oatcakes served with Brie and J.J. Stewart’s Cranberry Champagne and Crystalized Ginger Preserves

Oatcakes are very versatile and take such basic, simple ingredients.  A cross between a cookie and a cracker, they are savory bites and are not overly sweet.  In fact, I would describe these artisan cookies/crackers as having a nice short, crisp texture.  Scottish in origin, oatcakes probably made their debut in Canada when they arrived along with Scottish immigrants.

Oatcakes can be eaten as plain cookies or sandwiched together with jam or date filling.  They can be consumed as crackers served with various condiments such as tangy gourmet preserves and marmalades alongside cheese, such as Brie.  Here I am serving them with J.J. Stewart’s Cranberry Champagne and Crystalized Ginger Preserves made in Stratford, PEI.  You can read the story I wrote earlier on J.J. Stewart’s products by clicking here.

This product is a bit sharp and tangy and goes particularly well with a plain oatcake and Brie cheese.   Whatever preserve, jam, or marmalade you serve with these, make sure it is not runny.  It needs to be fairly thick consistency so it will stay in place atop the oatcake. Choosing a bright red jam makes these colorful savories!

Oatcakes can also be dipped in chocolate.  And, yes, they can even find their way onto an afternoon tea table because they taste especially good with a fine cup of tea.  In fact, I served them at my Tartan Day Afternoon Tea this year.

Oatcakes at Afternoon Tea
Oatcakes at Afternoon Tea

 

Old-fashioned Savory Oatcakes

 Ingredients:

1 cup shortening

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

2 cups oatmeal (not instant)

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Oatcake Ingredients
Oatcake Ingredients

Preheat oven to 350°.

With electric mixer, cream shortening and sugar.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Blend in vanilla.

In separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and salt.

With mixer at lowest speed, gradually add the flour mixture until combined.

Remove bowl from mixer and, using a wooden spoon, add the oatmeal.  Stir well.

Roll out dough thin – between ⅛” and ¼” thick.  Cut into 2” circles or squares.

Place on parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake 10 minutes.  Remove from oven an let set on baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Oatcakes freeze very well.  They are a great staple to have on hand along with a good quality preserve or marmalade so, when company drops in unexpectedly, it is quick and easy to pull together some refreshments.  Set out the bottle of preserve, a stack of oatcakes, some favorite cheese, and fresh fruit and you have a savory snack food!

 

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.

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True Confessions of an Island Foodie’s Love Affair with Local Prince Edward Island Foods

Happy Valentine’s from Prince Edward Island!

As many of you know, I am part of the year-long Canadian Food Experience Project.  Each month, food blogger participants are prompted by a prescribed theme upon which to base a posting on their individual blogs.  The February theme is “My Canadian Love Affair”.

What follows is the menu and description of my Valentine’s dinner 2014, using several of my favorite Island food products. In order to meet the timelines of the Project, I have prepared my dinner a week early so it can be included in the Project’s monthly round-up.  My Canadian Love Affair is all about the great local food produced on Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province.

When I think of foods that I love, well….there are many!  But, coming from an Island blessed with rich red fertile soil and surrounded by the sea, I would have to say that seafood and potatoes would rank high on my list.  So, for my Valentine’s dinner, I have incorporated both but the potatoes in one of the recipes may be presented in a form that could surprise some of you.  Here’s a taste to whet your appetite ….

The following is the four-course menu for my Valentine’s Dinner which features some of my favorite Island products:

Starter

Island Mussels

(steamed in apple cider and herbs and dipped in Island-churned butter)

Soup

Jeff McCourt’s PEI Seafood Chowder

(a rich, smooth, and creamy chowder filled

with a variety of PEI seafood and Island potatoes)

Main

Lobster Newburg served in a patty shell accompanied by a crisp green salad

(lobster and mushrooms in a rich sherry and cheese sauce)

Dessert

Chocolate Potato Cake

Wine Pairing:  Rossignol’s Little Sands White Wine (PEI)

PEI Mussels
PEI Mussels

It would be hard to surpass PEI mussels.  They are shipped all over the globe and are world renowned.  There are many ways to prepare mussels and there are many different liquids in which they can be steamed, each of which will give a slightly different flavor to the mussels.  The important thing about steaming mussels is to use very little liquid. Using too much liquid will diminish the flavor of the mussels. It is the steam from the liquid that forces the mussel shells open, not the amount of liquid itself.  These delicacies take very little time to cook – they are cooked when the shells open, a process that generally takes about 5-7 minutes.  Be sure to discard any shells that have not opened during the steaming process.

Today, I have steamed the mussels in a small amount of apple cider enhanced by a sprinkle each of lemon thyme, parsley, and basil all dried from our garden last summer.  How much liquid is needed is based, of course, on how many mussels are being steamed.  Because I was only steaming about 15-20 mussels for these two appetizers, I only used about 2 tbsp of apple cider.

While mussels are used in various recipes, including mussel chowder, the most common way to eat mussels on the Island is dipped in melted butter (oh-là-là!).  Mussels are a common food found at many get-togethers because they are quick and easy to prepare and are so very tasty.

For the second course, I couldn’t bypass an all-time favorite of mine – a good seafood chowder.

Seafood Chowder
Seafood Chowder

This recipe comes courtesy of the Culinary Boot Camps at the Culinary Institute of Canada in Charlottetown.  This award-winning recipe was developed by Chef Jeff McCourt who was the chef instructor at the one-day “Island Flavors” Boot Camp that I attended a couple of years ago.  This chowder was one of the dishes that participants made at the Boot Camp.  The Culinary Institute kindly gave me permission to share the seafood chowder recipe as part of the story I was writing on the Boot Camps.  If you find yourself on PEI during the summer/fall seasons when the Culinary Boot Camps are operating, this is a fantastic way to learn about cooking with local Island products and flavors.  Click here to see my story on the Boot Camps and to get the PEI Seafood Chowder recipe.

I have made many seafood chowder recipes but have not found any that I liked better than this one.  It is filled with a great variety of delectable Island seafood along with PEI potatoes and has a rich, tasty chowder base.  Seafood chowder is a great way to sample several different kinds of local seafood all in one dish. This recipe suggests a variety of seafood that includes lobster, oysters, clams, mussels, scallops, and crab.  On PEI, we would typically serve the seafood chowder with crusty rolls, biscuits, or baguette slices.

For my main course, I simply had to choose lobster!  Lobster is still the seafood king on the Island and Islanders love their lobster.

Lobster
Lobster

The most typical way Islanders enjoy their lobster is straight out of the shell, dipped in melted butter, and served with potato salad, coleslaw, and rolls.  A jellied salad and slices of tomato and cucumber are also often  included.

There are numerous enterprises around the Island that, seasonally, serve lobster suppers that generally consist of mussels, seafood chowder, lobster in the shell, salads, rolls, and a selection of pies and other desserts.  There are three main lobster supper venues on PEI.  Saint Anne’s Church Lobster Suppers in Hope River, not far from Cavendish, PEI, began in 1963 when a priest came up with the idea to have lobster suppers as a means to raise money to pay off the $35,000 mortgage on the church.  New Glasgow Lobster Suppers in New Glasgow, in operation since 1958, and Fishermen’s Wharf Restaurant in North Rustico also serve full lobster suppers as well.  A traditional lobster supper at one of these establishments is a must-stop for lobster lovers visiting PEI.  In addition, most restaurants on the Island will feature lobster in one form or another on their menus.  Last summer, I crisscrossed the Island in search of the best lobster roll on PEI since these are a common menu item for many restaurants.  Click here to read about which one was my favorite.

The popularity of lobster is somewhat ironic.  Today, it is a high-priced food, often considered by many a luxury and reserved for special occasions.  However, on PEI, that was not always the case.  I remember speaking with an Island woman who grew up about 65 years ago in an Island fishing community where her father was a lobster fisherman.  She remembers being embarrassed opening her lunch at school and revealing a lobster sandwich since lobster was associated with poor people!  My, how times have changed!

As a child, I had no interest in eating lobster.  In fact, when my family was having a “feed of lobster” at home, my mother always roasted me a chicken!  They would coax me to try the lobster but it just didn’t appeal to me.  Finally, as a young adult, I gave in and tried a bite of lobster….well, let’s just say that’s when my love affair with lobster began and I’ve been making up for all the years I didn’t eat it!

So, it would be a logical choice that I would choose lobster as the main course for a special Valentine’s dinner.  I have opted to go with a traditional Lobster Newburg served in light and airy patty shells accompanied by a crisp green salad.

Lobster Newburg
Lobster Newburg

Lobster is fished in PEI from spring through to fall so we have no winter lobster fishing season on the Island.  Many of us freeze lobster meat when it is in season to enjoy in recipes, like Lobster Newburg, throughout the remainder of the year.  My recipe for Lobster Newburg can be made with either fresh or frozen lobster meat.

Lobster Newburg
Lobster Newburg

Lobster Newburg, although it is often considered an elaborate menu item, is really quite easy to prepare.  It’s also a good way to stretch lobster to increase the number of servings you can get from the meat of a lobster.  What makes Lobster Newburg so tasty and silky in texture is the sauce.  This is a rich, creamy cheese and sherry sauce so large portion sizes are not necessary.  I traditionally serve Lobster Newburg in patty shells.  However, it can also be presented over toast points or served over a bed of steamed rice.  Or, it may be served in small individual casserole dishes with a side of steamed asparagus spears.  The recipe for my Lobster Newburg follows at the end of this posting.

Much as Islanders have an enduring love affair with food that comes from the sea that surrounds us, we also have a special fondness for our famous PEI potatoes.  For the past two years, I have followed a couple of potato farmers from the planting of the crop to the harvesting process.  To read these stories and get a couple of my favorite potato recipes, here are the two links to the postings for Smith Farms of Newton, PEI and Eric C. Robinson Inc., of Albany, PEI.

I have chosen to serve a Chocolate Potato Cake as a finale to my Valentine’s dinner.  Yes, potatoes in a cake!  It’s amazing how many different ways potatoes can be served.  Earlier this week, I posted my recipe for Chocolate Potato Cake on my food blog.

To make this feast truly a PEI dinner, I chose a white wine from PEI’s Rossignol Winery in Little Sands, PEI.  The Island has three wineries – the other two are Newman Estate Winery in Gladstone and Matos Winery in St. Catherine’s, PEI.  Each makes fine wine that is a great accompaniment to any meal.

Rossignol's Little Sands White Wine
Rossignol’s Little Sands White Wine

To compliment the tablesetting, I chose locally-grown tulips from Vanco Farms’ greenhouses in Mount Albion, PEI.  Aren’t they beautiful flowers!

Vanco Tulips
Vanco Tulips

So, this is my local flavors Valentine’s dinner for 2014, featuring some of my favorite and most loved local PEI foods and wine.  I hope you enjoy them, too!

Lobster Newburg

Ingredients:

4-5 oz cooked lobster (either fresh or frozen)

1 tbsp butter

3 oz mushrooms, sliced

1 tbsp butter

1½ tbsp flour

⅛ tsp paprika

pinch nutmeg

¾ cup whole milk or half-and-half

2 tbsp grated cheddar cheese

1 egg yolk, slightly beaten

½ tbsp sherry

1½ tsp brandy

1 tsp liquid chicken bouillon

salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Melt first amount of butter in a medium-sized saucepan.  Add and sauté mushrooms for approximately 2 minutes.  Set aside.

In separate saucepan, melt remaining tablespoon of butter.  Add flour, paprika, and nutmeg.  Whisk in the milk until mixture is smooth.  Add cheese.  Stir mixture constantly until slightly thickened.

Add approximately 2 tbsp of the hot sauce to the egg yolk to temper the egg so it won’t curdle when added to the hot sauce.  Add the tempered egg to the sauce in the pan.

Cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, then add the lobster meat and mushrooms.

Add the sherry and brandy and cook and stir slowly for 1-2 minutes to heat the lobster and mushrooms.  Add salt and pepper to taste, if desired.

Serve immediately in baked patty shells or over toast points or steamed rice.

Yield:  2-3 servings

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.

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Lobster-stuffed Cherry Tomatoes

Lobster-stuffed Cherry Tomato
Lobster-stuffed Cherry Tomato

Our garden produced hundreds of tiny cherry tomatoes this summer.  It’s always a challenge as to what to do with them and it seems everyone I know also has an abundance of them, too.  Cherry tomatoes make great bases for appetizers or hors d’oeurves.  They are particularly tasty when filled with lobster salad!  This weekend, there is a huge shellfish festival in Charlottetown, PEI, so I thought this was an appropriate time to post a recipe using one of my favorite shellfish, lobster.

I used the same lobster salad recipe as I used for the filling in the lobster croissants that were featured for my labour day picnic.  The only thing I did differently was to chop the lobster into smaller pieces so the salad would fit into the cherry tomatoes.

To assemble, slice off the stem end of the tomato.  With a small coffee spoon, carefully hollow out and discard the seeds and juicy pulp of the tomatoes.  Fill with lobster salad.  Garnish with fresh herbs such as chives, thyme, and/or dill.

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.  

Be sure to visit my new Facebook page at My Island Bistro Kitchen.  You may also wish to follow me on twitter @PEIBistro and on Pinterest at “Island Bistro Kitchen”.