Category Archives: Casseroles

Beef Pasta Casserole Recipe

Beef Pasta Casserole
Beef Pasta Casserole

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

Beef Pasta Casserole
Beef Pasta Casserole

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

Beef Pasta Casserole
Beef Pasta Casserole

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

Beef Pasta Casserole
Beef Pasta Casserole Ready for the Freezer

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

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

Beef Pasta Casserole
Beef Pasta Casserole

Beef Pasta Casserole

Ingredients:

1½ lbs lean ground beef
1½ – 2 tbsp vegetable oil

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

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

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

½ cup shredded cheese of choice for topping casserole

Method:

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

Preheat oven to 350°F.

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

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

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

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

Yield:  12-14 servings

Beef Pasta Casserole

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

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

 

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Beef Pasta Casserole
Beef Pasta Casserole

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole Recipe

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole
Chicken Chow Mein Casserole

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

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole
Chicken Chow Mein Casserole

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

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole
Chicken Chow Mein Casserole

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

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole
Chicken Chow Mein Casserole

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

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole
Chicken Chow Mein Casserole

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

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole
Chicken Chow Mein Casserole

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked chicken, cubed

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

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

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

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

Method:

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

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

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

Yield:  Apx. 4 servings

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

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

 

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

Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole

 

Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole
Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole

Last week I cooked a boiled ham dinner and, despite that I had my local butcher cut me a small smoked picnic ham, it still had a lot of meat on it. You can get my method for making a boiled ham dinner here. After sandwiches and leftovers for a few nights, I decided it was time to find another use for the rest of the ham. I am not one to throw out food so I always find ways to use up leftovers.

Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole
Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole

So, I made what I call a Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole aptly named because, in addition to the ham, it has pineapple, rice, and bright green broccoli florets.  This casserole is not difficult to make but it does take a bit of time, planning, and coordination since the rice and broccoli have to be pre-cooked and the pineapple fried (yes, fried).

I use about 7.5 ounces of diced cooked ham for this recipe.  Use fresh broccoli if at all possible and only barely cook it.  Broccoli cooks super fast and, if it is overcooked, it may go to “mush” when it is baked in the casserole.  For this recipe, it needs no more cooking than a minute or two.

Fresh pineapple can be used but I use canned pineapple chunks because I use 1/4 cup of the pineapple juice in the sauce to give it a bit of sweet flavour.

Any kind of cream-based soup can be used in this casserole – cream of celery, broccoli, broccoli and cheese, or mushroom. I often use cream of celery soup as it is a mild soup that doesn’t compete with other flavours in the casserole but the other soups work well, too.

Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole
Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole
Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole

Ingredients:

½ cup cooked rice
1 – 10 oz can cream of celery soup (or cream soup of choice)
2 tbsp sour cream
1/3 cup milk
½ tbsp liquid chicken bouillon
½ tbsp butter
2 tbsp brown sugar
5 oz fresh broccoli florets
7½ oz cooked ham, diced (apx. 1½ cups)
1 cup pineapple chunks, drained (retain ¼ cup of the juice)

½ cup fine bread crumbs
2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese

Method:

Cook rice according to package instructions

In large measuring cup, mix the soup, sour cream, milk, pineapple juice, and liquid chicken bouillon together. Set aside.

Melt butter in small frypan over medium high heat. Stir in brown sugar until it melts. Add pineapple chunks and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cook broccoli in boiling salted water over high heat for 1-2 minutes. Do not overcook.

To assemble casserole:

Grease a 1.5 litre casserole dish or, alternatively, spray with cooking oil. Spread cooked broccoli on bottom of casserole dish.

Sprinkle cooked rice on top of broccoli.

DSCN2108

Add a layer of pineapple chunks.

Lastly, add the layer of ham.

Pour soup mixture over casserole contents.

In small dish, mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese together and sprinkle over casserole.

Bake for 25-30 minutes or until top of casserole is lightly tanned and soup starts to bubble around the edges. Remove from oven and let stand for at least 10 minutes to allow casserole to set before serving.

Yield: 4-6 servings

Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole
Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole

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Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole

Yield: Apx. 4-6 servings

A casserole filled with a wonderful blend of flavors - ham, rice, broccoli, and pineapple all smothered in a rich creamy sauce.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup cooked rice
  • 1 – 10oz can cream of celery soup (or cream soup of choice)
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • ½ tbsp liquid chicken bouillon
  • ½ tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 5 oz. fresh broccoli florets
  • 7½ oz cooked ham, diced (apx. 1½ cups)
  • 1 cup pineapple chunks, drained (retain ¼ cup of the juice)
  • ½ cup fine bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese

Instructions

  1. Cook rice according to package instructions
  2. In large measuring cup, mix the soup, sour cream, milk, pineapple juice, and liquid chicken bouillon together. Set aside.
  3. Melt butter in small frypan over medium high heat. Stir in brown sugar until it melts. Add pineapple chunks and cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Cook broccoli in boiling salted water over high heat for 1-2 minutes. Do not overcook.
  5. To assemble casserole:
  6. Grease a 1.5 litre casserole dish or, alternatively, spray with cooking oil. Spread cooked broccoli on bottom of casserole dish. Sprinkle cooked rice on top of broccoli. Add a layer of pineapple chunks. Lastly, add the layer of ham.
  7. Pour soup mixture over casserole contents.
  8. In small dish, mix the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese together and sprinkle over casserole.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until top of casserole is lightly tanned and soup starts to bubble around the edges. Remove from oven and let stand for at least 10 minutes to allow casserole to set before serving.
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Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole
Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole

Seven-Layer Dinner (aka “Shipwreck Dinner”)

Seven Layer DInner
Seven-Layer Dinner (aka “Shipwreck Dinner”)

Okay, so my recipe is actually eight layers, but who is counting when the meal is as tasty as this one is!

Seven-layer dinner (sometimes called “Shipwreck”) is really little more than a full dinner in a casserole and baked in the oven.  I grew up (as I am sure many of you have) with this vintage meal served on a regular basis.  The seven main ingredients are:  1) onions, 2) meat, 3) potatoes, 4) celery, 5) carrot, 6) peas, and 7) rice.  Sometimes, it’s a six-layer dinner depending on what veggies I have on hand and sometimes it might be eight or nine layers thick.  I like to add parsnip because it adds a level of sweetness.  Sometimes, I will slice turnip very thinly and add it as well.  Frozen corn also works in addition to the frozen peas or instead of.  In that regard, it is almost a potluck dish!

It has probably been named “Shipwreck” because it can be made with pretty much any vegetables you happen to have on hand as well as different kinds of meats, such as ground beef or sausage and it is also an economical way to stretch the meat content.  In many households, it can be made with what is on hand without having to go shopping and it doesn’t take any kind of exotic or hard-to-find ingredients.  This is an old-fashioned hearty meal.  Have you noticed that many of these old “stand-by” meals are becoming popular again?

On a regular basis, I tend to cook with a fair bit of seasonings and spices.  However, this is one dish that I never add anything to it other than salt and pepper and the onion for flavour.

In my home, I grew up with this recipe being made with ground beef (we never used any other kind of meat in it) so, as April closes out as the month on PEI to promote local beef, I am sharing my recipe for this simple comfort food.  The beef I used for this casserole is 100% Island beef and was purchased at KJL Meats, a local butcher shop in Charlottetown, PEI.

This is a great meal to make when you have little time for meal preparation and clean-up because all the veggies, the rice, and the meat cook together in the one casserole so there are no pots and pans to wash (bonus!) other than the dish it bakes in.  And, your kitchen will smell divine when this is baking in the oven!  If there happens to be any leftover, this meal carries over well and, in fact, the flavours seem to become even richer the next day when it is reheated.

Seven-Layer Dinner

1 medium onion

2 medium-sized potatoes, thinly sliced (about 1/8 inch thick)

½ – ¾ pound extra lean ground beef

½ cup celery

1/3 cup parsnips, thinly sliced (about 1/16 inch thick)

1 cup carrots, thinly sliced

½ cup frozen peas

scant ½ cup Minute Rice

1 can tomato soup

1 soup can of water

 

Method:

Assemble ingredients.

Grease 2-quart casserole.  Peel and slice onions to make first layer of casserole.

Add the layer of sliced potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Add the layer of ground beef.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Add celery, parsnips, carrots, and frozen peas.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

page 1

Sprinkle ingredients with rice.  Cover casserole ingredients with can of tomato soup.  Pour one soup can of water over top of ingredients (or, if you wish, you can mix the soup and water together and pour as one over the casserole ingredients).

Cover and bake at 350F for 1 ½ – 2 hours until vegetables are tender.

Serves 4-6

It is hard to plate this meal attractively but its taste more than makes up for its lack of presentation!

Suggested Serving:  Serve with homemade mustard pickles and whole grain artisan bread.

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Seven Layer Dinner (aka Shipwreck Dinner)
Seven Layer Dinner (aka Shipwreck Dinner)

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Savory Cottage Pie

My Island Bistro Kitchen's Cottage Pie
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Cottage Pie

I first had Cottage Pie (although I didn’t know that’s what it was) many years ago as a small child at Camp Segunakadeck (Seggie) on the south shore of PEI.  I came home from summer camp raving about this yummy dish and trying to describe it to my mother.  As a seven or eight-year old, my descriptions of culinary delights would not have been enough for even a seasoned professional chef to be able to concoct some resemblance of the meal.  The description would have went something like this…there was hamburg and ‘stuff’ on the bottom and mashed potatoes on the top and it was made in a large pan.  Many years later when I would recall my camping experience, I was always reminded of this dish which I have since come to realize was likely a version of Shepherd’s or Cottage Pie, most likely the latter.

In the years since, I have tried many recipes for Shepherd’s Pie or Cottage Pie but none were very flavourful and I was never satisfied with the result.  One thing I learned not so long ago is that, while both have a cover of mashed potatoes on top of the meat, there is a difference between the two:  Shepherd’s Pie is made with ground (or minced) lamb and Cottage Pie is made with ground (or minced) beef, more commonly known as hamburg.  So, while many of us use the generic name “Shepherd’s Pie” when referring to this dish, if we are using ground beef, then it’s really Cottage Pie we are making.  The great thing about Cottage Pie is that you can add any veggies you like (or eliminate any you don’t) or you can make it primarily with meat and very few vegetables.

The recipe I have created for my tomato-based Cottage Pie contains a lengthy list of ingredients and, I will forewarn, it does take a bit of time to make.  However, the end result is worth the effort and this comfort food freezes well (unbaked) so it’s a great dish to have on hand in the freezer for busy nights when everyone arrives home hungry for dinner and no one has the energy to make a fulsome meal from scratch.  Serve the Cottage Pie with string beans, asparagus, or a green salad.

Cottage Pie

Ingredients:

1 tbsp olive oil

1 lb extra-lean ground beef

 

1 tbsp. olive oil

½ cup chopped onion

½ cup diced carrots

2 tbsp diced parsnip

½ cup chopped celery

¼ cup chopped green pepper

2 garlic cloves, minced

2-3 oz. button mushrooms, sliced

2 tbsp flour

2 ½ tbsp tomato paste

½ cup tomato sauce

1 tbsp ketchup

1 cup canned diced tomatoes, with juice

½ cup tomato soup

¼ cup red wine

½ tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 cup beef broth

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 tsp. molasses

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1 tsp dried Italian seasoning

1 bay leaf

Pinch coriander

Pinch ginger

Pinch cinnamon

½ cup frozen peas

½ cup frozen corn

 

Potato Topping:

2 lbs potatoes

½ cup milk

1 egg yolk

Sea salt

Ground pepper

3 tbsp soft butter

Pinch nutmeg

¼ cup grated cheese of choice

 

Paprika

 

Directions:

Assemble ingredients.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in large frypan.  Brown meat over medium-low heat.  Drain off any excess fat.  Set aside.

In large saucepan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil.  Sauté onion, carrot, parsnip, celery, green pepper, and garlic for 3-4 minutes over medium-low heat.  Add mushrooms.  Sauté for 2-3 minutes.

Sprinkle flour over the mixture and stir in tomato paste, tomato sauce, and ketchup.  Cook 1-2 minutes.

Add canned tomatoes, tomato soup, red wine, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, beef broth, salt, pepper, molasses, and brown sugar.  Bring to a boil.  Immediately reduce heat to medium-low.

Add cooked ground beef and spices.  Cook 3-4 minutes until mixture is heated.

Add frozen corn and peas and cook 2-3 minutes longer.  Remove from heat.

Potato Topping

Cook potatoes.  Drain.  Mash.  Transfer mashed potatoes to bowl of stand mixer and whip for apx. 2 minutes on high speed with milk, egg yolk, salt, pepper, butter, nutmeg, and grated cheese (I used Parmigiano Reggiano).

Preheat oven to 350F.

To assemble:

Spray casserole dish or individual ramekins with cooking spray.

Remove and discard bayleaf and spoon meat mixture into dishes, filling each a scant ¾ full.  Top with spoonfuls of whipped potatoes to the top of the casserole or ramekins.  With knife, gently spread potatoes so meat mixture is entirely covered.  Using tines of a fork, create a decorative pattern on the potato topping. Sprinkle with paprika.

Bake, uncovered, 30-40 minutes, until topping starts to brown.  Remove from oven and let stand 8-10 minutes.  Serve with steamed green beans, asparagus, or a green salad.

Makes 8-9 servings

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Cottage Pie
Savory Cottage Pie

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Macaroni and Cheese

This is my favorite Macaroni and Cheese recipe.  It uses the fine cheddar cheese produced right here on Prince Edward Island at the Cows Creamery.

My Island Bistro Kitchen's Macaroni and Cheese

 

My Island Bistro Kitchen's Macaroni and Cheese

By Barbara99 Published: March 28, 2012

  • Yield: 4-5 Servings
  • Prep: 25 mins
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Ready In: 55 mins

A rich, flavorful macaroni and cheese dish using Cows Creamery Cheddar Cheese

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In large pot, bring water to boil. Add salt, oil, liquid chicken bouillon, garlic, and macaroni. (I like to add some garlic and chicken bouillon to the water so it will flavor the pasta when it is cooking. This provides a subtle taste without overpowering or competing with the cheese which would be the case if the ingredients were added into the cheese sauce.)
  2. Cook macaroni, uncovered, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent macaroni from sticking to pot. Drain in colander. Return macaroni to pot.
  3. Melt butter in saucepan. Add milk. Combine flour, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne, and dry mustard. Whisk into milk and butter mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring until mixture is smooth and starts to thicken.
  4. Add cheeses and stir until melted and blended
  5. Pour cheese sauce over macaroni and stir until well combined. Turn into a greased 2-quart casserole or divide into greased ramekin dishes for individual servings.
  6. Bake, uncovered, in 350F oven for 20-30 minutes.
  7. Serve with a green salad and fresh homemade biscuits.

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Cows Creamery Field Trip

 

Cows Creamery in Prince Edward Island

I recently paid a visit to Cows Creamery at its factory location on the outskirts of Charlottetown, PEI, where I was met by my two tour guides, Yvonne and Andrea.  As I soon learned, Cows is a whole lot more than its renowned premium quality ice cream.

With humble beginnings back in 1983, Cows has evolved into a large diversified operation that produces, along with its iconic ice cream, three varieties of cheddar cheese as well as its newest dairy product, creamery butter.  You’ll also find this company producing several food items such as chocolate-covered potato chips plus a line of novelty items (including its whimsical cow-inspired clothing line).   For the purposes of this field trip, however, my focus was on the dairy side of Cows’ operations.

Cows Ice Cream

 

"Wowie Cowie" Ice Cream at Cows Creamery

Cows began producing and selling one variety of ice cream (vanilla) on the Cavendish Boardwalk in 1983.  It wasn’t long before customers soon started associating Cows with premium-quality ice cream.  A short while later, Cows opened their first ice cream shop in downtown Charlottetown and you can still find it there on the corner of Queen and Grafton Streets, just across from the Confederation Centre  of the Arts.

Cows Ice Cream Shop in Downtown Charlottetown, PEI

Over the years, Cows added and operated, on a seasonal basis, several more outlets – Peakes Wharf in Charlottetown, Gateway Village at the foot of the Confederation Bridge in Borden-Carleton, and on “The Confederation” ferry that runs, May-October, between PEI and NS.  Of course, their new creamery near Charlottetown also sells ice cream year-round in the retain outlet.  Cows has also added several off-Island locations that include Historic Properties in Halifax, NS; Whistler, BC; Banff, AB; and Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON.

Today, Cows produces some 32 flavours (yes, 32!) of high-end premium ice cream with catchy names like my favourite, “Wowie Cowie”.  All the ice cream is made in their PEI creamery using milk produced on PEI dairy farms and as many locally-produced ingredients (e.g., berries) as possible.

Cows Ice Cream Production Room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ice cream is then shipped to their various retail outlets in PEI and across the country.

Cows Ice Cream - Prince Edward Island

 

On the day of my late afternoon March visit, the ice cream operation was not in production mode.  However, their retail outlet was selling the delectable ice cream!  Cows ice cream is served in their tasty signature waffle cones that are hand-made in each store.  One bite and you know this is no ordinary ice cream cone.  It is so good that it could almost be described as a specialized dessert crisp cookie in and of itself!  The silky smooth ice cream holds its shape in the cone and does not melt too quickly like other brands made with less premium quality ingredients.

Single scoop (waffle cone included) is competitively priced at $3.75 + tax (at time of writing in March 2012) with other high-end ice creams.

The best way I can describe Cows ice cream is that it’s an experience unto itself, right down to the tip of the cone!  For me, Cows ice cream is the benchmark against which all other ice creams get rated and I’ve found no other commercial brand to date that tops it.  Just a word of caution, though, their ice cream is downright addictive!

 

Cheddar Cheese

Cows Cheese

 

Cows Creamery expanded its production line in 2006 when it started making cheddar cheese.  Today, their cheese line includes three varieties:  Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar (the strongest and most robust of the three); Cows Creamery Extra Old Cheddar, and Cows Creamery Applewood Smoked  2 Year Old Cheddar.

 

Cows Creamery Extra Old Cheddar and Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar

Just as with their ice cream, Cows makes their cheese using milk that comes from small rural local dairy farms around PEI.  Not only does this mean they are using fresh, quality ingredients but they are also supporting local dairy producers.  The cheeses are made using the English method and, in fact, my tour guides told me their recipe has its roots in the Orkney Islands, north of Scotland.  The cheeses are all-natural products made from unpasteurized milk with no color added.  So, if your vision is of a bright orange cheese, you won’t find that at Cows.  What you will find, though, is a natural-colored cheese with full-bodied authentic cheese flavour.

I must admit I have never been a fan of old cheese, preferring instead the much more subtle flavours offered by mild and, on occasion, medium cheeses.  I was somewhat reluctant to try Cows cheese for the reason that other “old” cheese varieties I have tried in the past always tasted stale to me and had what I can only describe as a distasteful flavour.  However, lesson learned – never be afraid to try new things and discover how accepting your palette might be to new and different tastes.  Cows’ cheeses are indeed good.  So good, in fact, the cheeses have already won several prestigious awards in Canada and the US.  Manufactured at their Charlottetown Creamery, the 20-pound cheese wheels are shipped to distributors all over North America.  Look, or ask for, Cows cheeses in local specialty cheese shops, farm markets, or grocery deli counters in your area.  On PEI, Cows’ pre-packaged cheese can be found at local supermarkets, at the Farmers Market in Charlottetown and, of course, in the retail outlet of the Cows Creamery near Charlottetown, PEI.

I asked my tour guides what the primary intended uses of these cheeses would be since they only manufacture old cheese varieties – i.e., are they meant for snacking cheeses, cooking, etc.  They suggested that the cheeses can simply be eaten on their own or used in salads, soups, casseroles, on burgers, or in grilled cheese sandwiches so these are very versatile products.

As per my usual practice when I visit a local producer, I like to take their product and use it in a recipe.  I decided I’d put Cows cheeses to the real test and make “Mac ‘n Cheese” (recipe follows at end of this blog).  The reason I chose Mac ‘n Cheese is because the pasta (a rather tasteless food item on its own) would not compete in taste with the cheese.  This would allow the cheese to “star” without being masked by other strong flavours and I would find out if I liked Cows old cheddar.  What I did was use 1 cup each of Cows Creamery Extra Old Cheddar and Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar. Well!  Let’s just say, I can probably never be satisfied with Mac ‘n Cheese made with any other cheese in the future!  The result was a rich, full-bodied cheese-flavoured Mac ‘n Cheese experience.  As mentioned above, Cows cheeses are naturally colored which means they are a very pale neutral (yellowish) color so, if you are accustomed to seeing a rich orange-colored macaroni dish, this will not give you that.  However, I think you’ll find the robust, true cheese flavour will more than make up for any lack of deep color.

 

Creamery Butter

Cows Sea-Salted Creamery Butter

In the summer of 2011, Cows introduced their newest product — butter sold in ½-pound packages and available unsalted or sea-salted.  Just as with their ice cream and cheese products, their butter is of premium quality with 84% butter fat versus 80% found in regular butters.  I have tried the sea-salted and it is one fine butter…particularly spread on fresh buttermilk biscuits straight out of the oven!

Cows Creamery Butter can be purchased on PEI at the Cows Creamery in Charlottetown as well as at the Co-op on Walker Avenue.  Off-Island, it can be found at Pete’s Frootique in Halifax and Bedford, NS, as well as in various stores in Ontario and in the Vancouver, BC, area.

 

Novelty Items

 

Cows Whimsical T-Shirts

In 1985, Cows introduced a whimsical line of clothing for their staff to wear.  They soon discovered that customers wanted to buy the staff clothing!  As a result, Cows began selling T-shirts and sweatshirts that bore images based on puns related to cows or farming.  This line has expanded to include a whole line of souvenir items and clothing.

Cows’ logo and images are very unique and recognizable.  In fact, a few years ago, I was strolling down a very crowded street in Freeport, ME, when I came upon a couple sporting Cows T-shirts – you can identify these T-shirts in a crowd anywhere!

 

Cows Advertisement at the Charlottetown Airport

Visitors arriving on PEI by air can expect to find, as they step into the terminal at the Charlottetown Airport, a large statue of a black and white shiny cow advertising “Cows” products.  Particularly during peak tourism season, it is not uncommon to find people posing for photographs with the cow as the backdrop.  This is probably the most photographed cow on PEI (or anywhere, for that matter)!

Factory Tours

Cows opened their new creamery facility just outside Charlottetown in 2009.  They offer tours that start with a video in their theatre room, followed by a stop by the T-shirt printing shop where you can watch the Cows images being transferred on to clothing.  Your next stop on the tour will take you by the infamous ice cream making room where you can watch this delectable treat being made.  From there, you’ll see the large wheels of cheese undergoing the aging process.  The last stop on the tour would, no doubt, be a huge hit – the tasting room where you’ll sample the ice cream made on the premises.  Tour prices (as of March 2012) are:  Adults $6.00;  Children $4.00; and Children Under 2 years of age are admitted free.  The tours run May 15 – October 15 and are available off-season by appointment only.

 

PEI has no shortage of good quality locally-produced food products available.  The great thing about Cows Creamery products (apart from their obvious high quality) is that they are produced right here on Prince Edward Island.  As a home kitchen chef and food blogger, I have a lot of time and respect for companies, such as Cows, that use local products in their manufacturing and, in turn, support local producers.  As anyone who knows me well will attest, I like to use the freshest ingredients possible and premium-quality products in my cooking and baking.  It doesn’t get any fresher than buying from local producers and manufacturers.

My Island Bistro Kitchen's Macaroni and Cheese

By Barbara99 Published: March 21, 2012

  • Yield: 4-5 Servings
  • Prep: 25 mins
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Ready In: 55 mins

A rich, flavorful macaroni and cheese dish using Cows Creamery Cheese

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In large pot, bring water to boil. Add salt, oil, liquid bouillon, garlic, and macaroni. I like to add some garlic and chicken bouillon to the water so it will flavor the pasta when it is cooking. This provides a subtle taste without overpowering or competing with the cheese which would be the case if the ingredients were added into the cheese sauce. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent macaroni from sticking to pot. Drain in colander. Return macaroni to pot.
  2. Melt butter in saucepan. Add milk. Combine flour, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne, and dry mustard. Whisk into milk and butter mixture. Cook over medium heat until mixture starts to thicken.
  3. Add cheeses and stir until melted and blended.
  4. Pour cheese sauce over macaroni and stir until well combined. Turn into a greased 2-quart casserole or divide into greased ramekin dishes for individual servings. Bake, uncovered, in 350F oven for 20-30 minutes.
  5. Serve with a fresh green salad and homemade biscuits.

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