Tulip Clusters Springtime Tablescape

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If you are looking for a tablesetting that is casual and contemporary, consider using single flowers in individual vases as opposed to the traditional floral centerpiece. This is an easy-to-do tablescape for anyone, even those who are not knacky with floral design. If you can fill a vase with water and place a flower in it, you can do this tablescape!

Springtime Tablescape
Springtime Tablescape
Vases

White milk glass has seen a resurgence in popularity in recent years and remains, at time of writing, quite trendy.  It’s clean, unobtrusive, and nondistracting on the table. One of the things I like best about milk glass is that it’s opaque meaning the flower stems are not visible. The other great thing about milk glass is that it’s inexpensive and often available at thrift shops for very little money. In addition, it’s easy to mix and match milk glass shapes, sizes, and textures and still have the tablescape work and look aesthetically pleasing.

In this setting, I have used a mixture of heights and designs of milk glass bud vases because this makes for a more interesting tablescape design. Always opt for an odd number of vases versus even numbers as this is more pleasing to the eye.

Milk Glass Vases
Milk Glass Vases
Positioning of Vases

The vases can be interspersed along the center of the table as shown in the photo above.

Or, as demonstrated in the following photo, they can be grouped into clusters of two and three and strategically placed in the center of the table.

Clustered Bud Vases
Clustered Bud Vases

The vases can also all be clustered close together in the center for a real concentrated burst of color making this a very versatile style of tablescape.

With this type of tablescape, it’s easy to adjust the number of vases according to the size of the table. For example, if the table seats 12 or 16, add more clusters of vases here and there down the length of the table.

Springtime Tablesetting
Springtime Tablesetting
Flowers and Greenery

I have chosen tulips for this design because it’s springtime and I love tulips! However, any single bloom flowers will work – roses, Gerbers, daisies, carnations, etc.  Two blooms can be added in one or two of the vases but try to keep the whole setting informal, simplistic, and not too contrived or equally balanced. It’s also attractive if the heights of the tulips are varied, too.

Setting the Springtime Table
Setting the Springtime Table

To add more interest and some visual weight to the look, I have added a small sprig of salal to a couple of the vases, but not them all. Adding salal to every vase is starting to cross over into the zone of trying to have every vase identical. Also, adding some wispy bear grass adds texture and interest so long as not too much is added.

The tulips were greenhouse-grown here on Prince Edward Island at Vanco Farms in Mount Albion. Click here to read the story I wrote a few years ago on their tulip production.

For unity, I recommend going with all one color of flower for all the vases as it’s less distracting to the eye and looks more coordinated.

Tulips
Tulips
Table Linens

In modern, contemporary and casual tablesettings, it’s very common to forego tablecloths and, as shown in this setting, to let the wood of the table be visible. It gives a lighter, more airy, and less fussy look to the table than if a full tablecloth was used. I have opted to use basic white placemats simply to “ground” each individual placesetting.

Placesetting
Placesetting

I’m a big fan of high-quality plain white napkins because they go with almost anything. In this setting, I have chosen the pure elegance napkin fold and placed it in the center of each plate. Because the top plate in the setting is patterned, the plain white napkin keeps the setting more simplistic and less distracting than if a patterned napkin was used. This napkin fold dresses up the setting, giving it a wee bit of height. Placing the napkin on the plate keeps each place setting neat and tidy.

"Pure Elegance" Napkin Fold
“Pure Elegance” Napkin Fold
Dinnerware

I advocate for the use of white dinnerware because it shows food to its best. However, I also like to set a pretty table with my formal Royal Albert “Lavender Rose” china.  But, sometimes, the china can be a bit formal for the occasion. In these situations, I pair pieces of my china with my white porcelain everyday dinnerware as I have done here.

Royal Albert "Lavender Rose" Pattern
Royal Albert “Lavender Rose” Pattern

Pale pink charger plates have been used to frame each setting topped with the white dinner plate and then the Lavender Rose salad plate on top. This salad plate gives color to the setting and the colors match the tulips. By mixing the plain white with the patterned china, it makes for a more interesting setting without becoming overly formal.

Glassware

The wine glasses I have selected for this setting are quite tall. They have a simple sleek shape, almost reminiscent of the tulip shape. These work well with a contemporary/modern tablesetting.

Tulips
Tulips
Flatware

Because I have gone with a more casual contemporary look for this setting, I have used a simple design of flatware. I have not included the dessert fork and spoon because those can be placed on the table along with the dessert course. Foregoing them in the initial setting helps to keep the look of the table clean and simple, particularly when there are five vases as opposed to one single floral centerpiece.

I hope you have enjoyed viewing this springtime tablesetting! It’s great to see bright cheery colors after a long winter!

For other springtime and Easter tablesettings, click on the following links:

Tip Toe Through the Tulips Easter Tablesetting
Springtime Yellow Tablescape
Peter Cottontail Tablesetting for Easter
Easter Tablesetting
A Casual Tablescape for Easter Brunch

Springtime Tablescape
Springtime Tablescape
src=”http://myislandbistrokitchen.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/PicMonkey-Image-1.jpg” alt=”Springtime Tablescape” width=”1000″ height=”3000″

 

Turnip Puff Casserole

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Turnip Puff Casserole
Turnip Puff Casserole

This turnip puff casserole is really a rutabaga puff casserole because, in fact, it is actually made with rutabaga, not turnip. However, all my life, I have known the root vegetable in the photo below as a “turnip”.  Besides, I think turnip puff casserole sounds better than rutabaga puff casserole!

Rutabaga
Rutabaga

Now, even though turnips and rutabagas are kissing cousins in the mustard plant family, there are some key differences between the two.

Turnips (Photo Courtesy Just a Little Farm, Bonshaw, PEI)
Turnips (Photo Courtesy Just a Little Farm, Bonshaw, PEI)

Turnips (shown in the photo above) are much smaller than rutabagas. They are usually anywhere from 2″ – 4″ in diameter compared to the much larger rutabagas that are typically 6″ or even  more in diameter.

Rutabagas are much sweeter and turnips more bitter. Rutabagas have yellow flesh whereas turnips have white flesh. Rutabagas will have thicker outer skins than turnips and their exterior color will have a purple top and yellowy-beige bottom whereas turnips will have a white or white/purple outer skin.  Rutabagas require much longer to grow and are more tolerant to cold than are turnips which is why you will often see turnips advertised as “summer” turnips. Because of their tolerance for the cold, rutabagas are often referred to as a “cold crop” and my grandparents always claimed the rutabagas (that they referred to as turnips) were no good until there had been a good frost before they were harvested. In fact, my grandmother always said the earlier they were harvested in the fall, the more bitter they were which is why, in the fall, she always added a small amount of sugar to the cooked rutabaga as she mashed it.

We often serve the golden-colored mashed rutabaga as a side vegetable to many meals but, sometimes (especially for special occasions), it’s nice to kick this side dish up a notch which is what I do when I make this turnip puff casserole. A rutabaga weighing approximately 1 lb, 7 oz will be required for this recipe.  To the cooked rutabaga that is mashed really well to the texture of purée, I add some applesauce and brown sugar for sweetener, some onion to make it just a little bit savory, along with some cheese to boost the flavor. A hint of nutmeg and garlic provide additional flavor. An egg  is added to bind the ingredients together and baking powder is added for leavening – hence the “puff” part of this side dish.

Turnip Puff Casserole
Turnip Puff Casserole

Now, I call this a “casserole” and, for photo demonstration purposes, have photographed a piece of it as a stand-alone on a plate. However, this is not a casserole I would make as a main meal entrée. Rather, it is a vegetable side dish so, instead of serving a scoop of mashed rutabaga with dinner, I cut out pieces of this casserole and serve it alongside other vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and peas.

Turnip Puff Casserole
Turnip Puff Casserole

A casserole or baking pan with about a 1.5-quart capacity (or slightly less) is required for this casserole. I find the 6″x8″ baking pan that I have for my toaster oven works perfectly. I would not use a deep casserole dish for this recipe as it would not cut out well for serving purposes so use a shallow baking pan. This recipe will provide six standard-sized serving portions, the size shown in the photographs. If you are serving several other side vegetables for a dinner, or serving this buffet-style, smaller pieces may suffice…..but it’s tasty so don’t be surprised if there are requests for second helpings!

Turnip Puff Casserole
Turnip Puff Casserole

For the breadcrumb topping, I use crumbs that are not super fine as are found in commercial boxes or bags of crumbs. These are ones I crumb (in the food processor) from bread crusts and they are the consistency as shown in the photo below – not super-fine but not overly chunky.

Bread Crumbs
Bread Crumbs

Bake this casserole in the oven for 30-35 minutes, just until the breadcrumb topping is lightly browned. Let stand for about 10 minutes before cutting into squares and serving.

Turnip Puff Casserole
Turnip Puff Casserole

This recipe is easily adapted to be gluten-free — simply replace the breadcrumbs called for in the recipe with those that are gluten-free and use gluten-free all purpose flour.

Turnip Puff Casserole
Turnip Puff Casserole

While this dish may be served at any time of the year, it is especially good at Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas with roast poultry, beef, or pork. This casserole may be made several hours in advance and refrigerated until needed.

Turnip Puff Casserole
Turnip Puff Casserole

 

[Printable Recipe Follows at end of Posting]

Turnip Puff Casserole

Ingredients:
2 cups warm cooked, mashed rutabaga (pre-cooked rutabaga weight apx. 1 lb 7 oz)
1/3 cup applesauce
1 tbsp grated onion
2 tbsp butter, softened
1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
2 tbsp brown sugar
¼ tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp garlic salt
¾ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp all-purpose flour (or gluten-free all-purpose flour)
2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp finely grated cheddar cheese
Salt and Pepper, to taste

½ cup fine bread crumbs
2 tsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
Pinch nutmeg
1½ tbsp melted butter

Method:
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease a 6”x8” baking pan.

In medium-sized saucepan, combine the mashed rutabaga, applesauce, grated onion, butter, and egg. Mix well.

In small bowl, combine the brown sugar, nutmeg, garlic salt, baking powder, flour, Parmesan and cheddar cheese, and salt and pepper, to taste. Stir well into the rutabaga mixture.  Transfer to prepared baking pan.

In small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and nutmeg with the melted butter.  Sprinkle crumbs over rutabaga mixture.  Bake, uncovered, for approximately 30-35 minutes, until lightly browned.

Serve hot as a side dish to any hot meal in which turnip/rutabaga would typically be served.

Yield: Apx. 6 servings

Turnip Puff Casserole

Yield: Apx. 6 servings

A vegetable side dish made with rutabaga purée, applesauce, cheese, and light seasonings. Perfect accompaniment to roast turkey, beef, or pork.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups warm cooked, mashed rutabaga (pre-cooked rutabaga weight apx. 1 lb 7 oz)
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1 tbsp grated onion
  • 2 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 extra-large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp garlic salt
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour (or gluten-free all purpose flour)
  • 2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tbsp finely grated cheddar cheese
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • ½ cup fine bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 1½ tbsp melted butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 6”x8” baking pan.
  2. In medium-sized saucepan, combine the mashed rutabaga, applesauce, grated onion, butter, and egg. Mix well.
  3. In small bowl, combine the brown sugar, nutmeg, garlic salt, baking powder, flour, Parmesan and cheddar cheese, and salt and pepper, to taste. Stir well into the rutabaga mixture. Transfer to prepared baking pan.
  4. In small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, and nutmeg with the melted butter. Sprinkle crumbs over rutabaga mixture. Bake, uncovered, for approximately 30-35 minutes, until lightly browned. Serve hot as a side dish to any hot meal in which turnip/rutabaga would typically be served.
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Turnip Puff Casserole - perfect side dish to turkey, beef, or pork

Bistro Style Potato Patties

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

It’s inevitable, when you live in Prince Edward Island, that you’ll eat a lot of potatoes and find creative ways in which to serve them, including these PEI Potato Patties. That’s because we grow lots and lots of spuds on our little Island with the rich red soil on Canada’s east coast.

PEI Potato Harvesting
PEI Potato Harvesting

Potatoes, a staple in many households, are one of the most versatile vegetables. They can be prepared and served in a myriad of ways as a tasty side dish to many different kinds of meals (click on the links at the bottom of this posting for several great recipes featuring potatoes).  When you need to put some variety into serving potatoes, these flavorful potato patties will fit the bill nicely.  They go with just about any meal in which potatoes would typically be served – pork chops, roast beef (hot or cold), steak, chicken, meatloaf, and even as a side to bacon and eggs.

PEI Potato Patties
PEI Potato Patties

So, what are potato patties?  They are made from warm cooked mashed or riced potatoes with seasonings added then formed into round patties and baked in the oven until lightly tanned and crispy on the outside.  If you have a potato ricer, like the one in the photo below, it is the best tool to use for processing the potatoes for the patties.  A standard potato masher can be used so long as the potatoes are mashed really well and are lump free.  The ricer, however, will yield light fluffy potatoes with no lumps and provide a more consistent texture in the potato patties.

Ricing Potatoes
Potato Ricer

These patties are gently seasoned with liquid chicken bouillon, shallot, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, and cheese along with butter and sour cream.  Adding bread crumbs to the mixture helps to give the patties structure and body and the addition of an egg binds the ingredients together. To make them gluten-free, use gluten-free bread crumbs both in the patties and to bread them. Whatever bread is used, the bread crumbs for the potato mixture should not be overly fine – they should have some coarseness to them.  The photo below shows a good medium grind for the bread crumbs for this recipe. The bread crumbs can be slightly finer for breading the patties.

Bread Crumbs
Bread Crumbs

Each patty is carefully tossed in bread crumbs that are seasoned with parsley and paprika and then baked in a hot 400F oven for about 15-20 minutes or so.

PEI Potato Patties
PEI Potato Patties

The 1/4-cup measure is about the right size for the patties which are formed into round shapes about 1/2 inch thick.  I make these patties and freeze them, unbaked, so I have them on hand for an easy and tasty side dish to many different meals. They freeze well stored in an airtight freezer container. To prepare them from frozen state, place patties on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for about 30-35 minutes, turning the patties once during baking.

If serving as a side dish to a meal, I figure on 2 patties per person. If serving at a buffet, it’s usually 1 patty per person.

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

PEI Bistro-Style Potato Patties

Ingredients:

2½ lb potatoes, cooked, drained, and mashed or riced
1/3 cup sour cream
1 tsp liquid chicken bouillon
1 shallot, minced (about 1½ tbsp)
¼ – ½ tsp garlic salt
¼ cup butter
1 medium-sized egg, lightly beaten
¾ cup medium ground bread crumbs, lightly toasted
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
Fresh ground pepper
¼ tsp fine sea salt
2 tbsp finely grated cheddar cheese, or your favorite cheese blend
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Finely ground bread crumbs, lightly toasted
2 tbsp fresh parsley
½ tsp paprika

Method:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Mash warm potatoes well, or press through potato ricer, to remove any lumps.

Place potatoes in large bowl and add next 12 ingredients.  Mix well to combine.

In separate shallow bowl or small pie plate, mix the finely ground bread crumbs, fresh parsley, and paprika.

Using ¼ cup measure, scoop potato mixture and form into round patties about ½” thick.  Toss each patty in the bread crumb mixture, pressing each patty gently to ensure breading mixture adheres.  Place patties on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until browned and slightly crisp, turning each patty once. Serve hot.

Yield: Apx. 15 patties

NOTE:  To toast bread crumbs, spread on baking sheet and bake in 350°F oven for 10-12 minutes, or till lightly tanned.

These patties freeze well.  Place on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and place in freezer for about an hour to freeze patties.  Then, simply transfer the patties to an airtight freezer container with layer of wax paper between each stack of patties.  Bake from frozen state, in preheated 400°F, for 30-35 minutes, turning once.


Other Potato Recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen:

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

Scalloped Potatoes
Twice-baked Potatoes
Potato Salad
Bread Stuffing/Dressing for Roast Turkey/Chicken

And these other great dishes that use PEI Potatoes:

Potato Leek Soup
Moussaka
Lobster Cakes
And, of course, Chocolate Potato Cake

To learn more about potato farming in Prince Edward Island, click on the links below:

Follow the PEI Potato Farmer! From Field to Table

From Field to Table: Potato Growing and Harvesting in Prince Edward Island

Bistro Style Potato Patties

Yield: Apx. 15 patties

Serving Size: 2 patties per serving

Perfect side dish to many meals. Mashed or riced potatoes are lightly seasoned, formed into patties, breaded, and baked in the oven until lightly browned and crisp on the outside.

Ingredients

  • 2½ lb potatoes, cooked, drained, and mashed or riced
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 tsp liquid chicken bouillon
  • 1 shallot, minced (about 1½ tbsp)
  • ¼ - ½ tsp garlic salt
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 medium-sized egg, lightly beaten
  • ¾ cup medium ground bread crumbs, lightly toasted
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • ¼ tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tbsp finely grated cheddar cheese, or your favorite cheese blend
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • Finely ground bread crumbs, lightly toasted
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley
  • ½ tsp paprika

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Mash warm potatoes well, or press through potato ricer, to remove any lumps.
  3. Place potatoes in large bowl and add next 12 ingredients. Mix well to combine.
  4. In separate shallow bowl or small pie plate, mix the finely ground bread crumbs, fresh parsley, and paprika.
  5. Using ¼ cup measure, scoop potato mixture and form into round patties about ½” thick. Toss each patty in the bread crumb mixture, pressing each patty gently to ensure breading mixture adheres. Place patties on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until browned and slightly crisp, turning each patty once. Serve hot.
  7. Yield: Apx. 15 patties
  8. NOTE: To toast bread crumbs, spread on baking sheet and bake in 350°F oven for 10-12 minutes, or till lightly tanned.
  9. These patties freeze well. Place on parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and place in freezer for about an hour to freeze patties. Then, simply transfer the patties to an airtight freezer container with layer of wax paper between each stack of patties. Bake from frozen state, in preheated 400°F, for 30-35 minutes, turning once.
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Bistro-style Potato Patties
Bistro-style Potato Patties

 

PEI Potato Patties
PEI Potato Patties

 

Rethink Beef Global Recipe Swap Campaign: Moussaka

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Moussaka
Moussaka

I have been invited by www.thinkbeef.ca to participate, as one of ten food bloggers from across Canada, in the Rethink Beef Global Recipe Swap Campaign to promote recipes using ground beef. Each blogger was asked to develop a recipe (using ground beef) that is inspired by his or her cultural background or a culinary adventure experienced. Each blogger was paired with another and the two exchanged their own recipe for the other to try. This posting involves showcasing my own recipe as well as a recipe from my swap partner, Jason Lee, who writes the blog, “Shut Up and Eat”.

Moussaka
Moussaka

I frequently use ground beef in recipes and am never at a loss to come up with meal ideas to use this versatile meat. The recipe I have chosen is Moussaka. This is a one-dish meal typically characterized by ground meat, eggplant, and tomato sauce with a white sauce on top. So, I will begin with a discussion on why I chose Moussaka to feature ground beef, followed by some hints and tips on making this Greek-inspired dish, and will end with my experience cooking my recipe swap partner’s Beef and Coriander Dumplings inspired by his Chinese heritage. This posting has two recipes from two different cultures but both use ground beef as the main ingredient.

A Greek Taverna in Kerkira, Corfu, Greece
A Greek Taverna in Kerkira, Corfu, Greece

The recipe for Moussaka is inspired by a recent trip to the Mediterranean area that included a re-visit to parts of Greece. I have always been a fan of typical Mediterranean dishes and, when I would stop and look at menus of Greek tavernas, like the one in the photo above in Kerkira, Corfu, I’d inevitably see Moussaka as one of the offerings. While I was unable to conclusively determine the exact origins of Moussaka, it is a dish that is commonly associated with Greece. It had been a long time since I had Moussaka and my visits to several Greek Islands re-ignited my interest in this tasty dish.

Taverna in Kerkira, Corfu, Greece
Taverna in Kerkira, Corfu, Greece

I was first introduced to Moussaka in the early 1980s when I found myself working not far from the restaurant of the Dundee Arms Inn  in Charlottetown, PEI. Their restaurant was considered one of the best in town with an upscale menu, and my workplace had a standing Friday noon reservation as, otherwise, it would have been impossible to get a table. The popular restaurant had an extensive lunch menu that included Moussaka.  This became my standard Friday noontime order. The traditional Moussaka contains eggplant as a key ingredient; however, I never did acquire a taste for eggplant but I sure did enjoy the rest of this yummy dish that was served, piping hot, in au-gratin dishes. I’d simply move the eggplant to the side and enjoy the meat and tomato sauce with its traditional béchamel topping. After all these years, when I think of Moussaka, I can still recall the wonderful flavor of the dish at The Dundee.

So, when I returned home from Europe in the fall, I decided I would develop a Moussaka recipe minus the eggplant, instead substituting potatoes as the base. This is quite apropos given I am from Prince Edward Island, home of great potato production. There are many variations of Moussaka, depending on the region in which it is being made, and many different combinations of meat that can be used. Mine keeps it simple by using lean ground beef. Needless to say, I was thrilled when I was invited to participate in the Rethink Beef Global Recipe Swap Campaign because I knew that Moussaka would be the recipe I would use in which to feature ground beef! And, it was the catalyst for me to get busy and develop the recipe instead of leaving it on my “To Do At Some Point” list.

Moussaka
Moussaka

Moussaka is not difficult to make so long as it is approached in a methodical and organized manner. That said, this is not a dish I would attempt for dinner on a weeknight after having arrived home from work at 5pm.  This is a great weekend dish. Serve it with rustic bread or rolls or biscuits alongside a green salad. If desired, pair with a red wine such as a Chianti Classico.

Moussaka
Moussaka

My version of Moussaka does not take any out-of-the-ordinary ingredients.  However, it does require planning, organization, and some time.  I don’t find it’s any more complicated or time-consuming than making lasagna.  There are four layers to my Moussaka – the potato base covered by the breadcrumb and Parmesan cheese mixture, followed by the meat sauce, and topped with a cheesy white sauce. As always, I recommend a thorough reading of the recipe before beginning the cooking process to make sure you have all the ingredients and understand the preparation method.

Moussaka
Moussaka

Here are my hints and tips for successfully making Moussaka:

  • Assemble and prepare cooking and food prep equipment (e.g., grater, whisk, measuring spoons, skillet, baking pan, baking sheet, etc.)
  • A deep 9” pan is best for baking this Moussaka. I used an 8” pan and it was full to the brim. I placed the pan on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet in case the Moussaka boiled out.  It didn’t, fortunately, but a deep 9” pan would give a little bit extra leeway.
  • Assemble and prepare all ingredients before beginning – chop the onion and celery and mince the garlic, grate the cheese, process the bread into crumbs, bring the eggs to room temperature, etc.
  • Before beginning, measure out all the ingredients and separate and group them according to the meat sauce, white sauce, etc. This will make the process go more quickly and efficiently.
  • Start the meat sauce first as it will need 25-30 minutes to simmer during which time work can be done on preparing the potatoes and white sauce. While the simmering process will allow the liquid content in the meat sauce to reduce, there is a fine line in how much liquid to evaporate out of the meat sauce. Removing too much will make the meat filling too dry but leaving too much will make it too runny when the Moussaka is cut.  A good gauge is to run a heat-proof rubber spatula through the meat sauce to make a track. If the sauce does not immediately fill the track back in, it’s done!
  • Choose a grind of beef that has reduced fat in it. I find lean ground beef has just the right meat/fat content for this recipe.
  • Make sure the oven is preheated to 425°F as soon as the meat sauce is starting to simmer so the oven is ready to roast the potatoes.
  • Choose a dry variety of potato, such as Russets, for this recipe. Wetter varieties of potatoes will have too much moisture in them and they may go “mushy” and not hold their shape in the Moussaka base.
  • Slice the potatoes about ¼” thick (or use a mandolin) and start them roasting once the meat sauce has been simmering for about 10 minutes. About ¼” thickness is good for the potato slices. Any thinner and they are likely to burn in the roasting process; any thicker and they provide too much of a starch taste in the Moussaka. Only roast the potatoes until they are just barely fork tender – overcooking will turn them to mush and they need to hold together in this dish as they form the base.
  • The grind for the breadcrumbs should not be as fine as you’d find in a box of commercial breadcrumbs. They should be slightly coarser. I use my food processor to grind breadcrumbs from crusts. I keep a ready supply of these on hand in my freezer for casseroles and for making poultry stuffing. This thin layer of breadcrumbs mixed with Parmesan cheese adds another layer of flavor to the Moussaka and also helps to absorb any excess moisture there might be in the potatoes.
  • The amount of garlic and spices to use is always very subjective and can vary greatly according to taste preferences. As with all recipes, I recommend following the recipe-prescribed amounts the first time the recipe is made, then altering the amounts, if necessary, the next time the dish is made. The amount of spices and garlic used in this recipe is moderate, meaning the meat sauce is not overly spicy.
  • About 10 minutes before the meat sauce is due to be done, start the white sauce. The goal is that the meat sauce, roasted potatoes and white sauce should all be ready about the same time so that the Moussaka can be assembled efficiently.
  • After the Moussaka has finished baking, allow it to sit for 20-30 minutes as this will allow it to set and firm up, making it easier to cut. Cutting it as soon as it comes out of the oven may cause the layers to separate, meaning the Moussaka won’t stay intact and stand on its own when plated.  The Moussaka should stay intact with each layer visible when it is cut.
Moussaka
Moussaka

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Moussaka Recipe

Ingredients:

Meat Sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 lb lean ground beef

1½ tbsp olive oil
¾ cup onion, chopped
1/3 cup celery, chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, minced
14 oz canned crushed tomatoes
¼ cup tomato paste
1/3 cup red wine
1/3 cup beef broth
1 bay leaf
1¼ tsp dried oregano
1¼ tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp cinnamon
½ tbsp dried parsley
1 tbsp brown sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Roasted Potato Layer:
2¼ lb russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into about ¼” thick slices
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

White Sauce:
2½ tbsp butter
3 tbsp flour
1 2/3 cups warm milk
2 extra-large egg yolks (room temperature), slightly beaten
Pinch nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
Pinch pepper
2/3 cup grated Gouda cheese

Breadcrumb Layer:
¾ cup fine bread crumbs
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Topping:

2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Method:

Meat Sauce:  Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add beef and scramble fry until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.  Transfer meat to wire sieve positioned over bowl to drain off excess liquid. Set meat aside.

Return skillet to heat and add 1½ tbsp olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and celery.  Cook until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional 30-60 seconds while stirring mixture.

Add the drained ground beef, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, beef broth, bay leaf, spices, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 20-25 minutes, or until most (but not all) of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and discard bay leaf.

Roast Potatoes: While meat sauce is simmering, heat the oven to 425°F.  Place potato slices in large bowl and drizzle very lightly with olive oil, salt, and pepper.  Toss potatoes to coat in oil. Place the sliced potatoes, single layer, on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Roast for about 12-15 minutes, or just until potatoes are barely fork tender. Remove potatoes from oven and reduce heat to 375°F for baking Moussaka.

White Sauce:  In medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, melt butter.  Whisk in the flour.  Cook, whisking constantly for about 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in the warm milk.  Bring mixture just to the boiling point.  Remove approximately ¼ cup of the hot liquid and whisk into the slightly beaten egg yolks to temper them so they don’t curdle.  Whisk the eggs into saucepan mixture.  Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper.  Cook over medium-low heat until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute.  Stir in the Gouda cheese until melted. Mixture should be of spreading consistency when sufficiently thickened.

Breadcrumb Layer:  In small bowl, mix breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese together.

Assembly:    Grease deep 9” baking pan.  Arrange half the potato slices in the bottom of the baking pan, overlapping the potatoes slightly.  Sprinkle one-half the breadcrumb-Parmesan cheese mixture over the potatoes.  Evenly spread one-half the meat sauce over the potatoes and breadcrumbs.  Place a layer of the remaining potato slices, followed by the rest of the breadcrumbs, and then the remaining meat sauce.  Evenly spread the white sauce over the entire mixture.  Sprinkle with 1½ tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese and 1/8 tsp nutmeg.

Place baking pan on a rimmed baking sheet lined with tin foil to catch any spills should casserole bubble out.  Bake for about 45 minutes or until bubbly and the top lightly browned.  Remove from oven and let stand for 20-30 minutes before cutting and serving. Serve with a green salad and rustic bread, rolls, or biscuits.

Yield:  Apx. 6-8 servings


And, Now, My Swap Partner’s Recipe ….

My recipe swap partner, Jason, chose to create a Beef and Coriander Dumplings recipe to feature ground beef.  Jason says, being Chinese, dumplings have always been a part of his life for as long as he can remember. Making dumplings with his mother and grandmothers is one of his fondest memories. A culinary course instructor specializing in Chinese cuisine, Jason is always looking for different dumpling recipes. He tells me that this particular recipe was inspired by a chili oil he was experimenting with for another recipe.

I was excited to try Jason’s recipe because I had never had filled dumplings and I love Chinese food! I was a little concerned at first that I might have difficulty finding dumpling wrappers and chili oil in PEI; however, the Island has a growing Asian population and, by participating in this initiative, I discovered Charlottetown, in fact, has a number of small global and Asian food specialty stores. I had no problem sourcing the ingredients locally for this recipe. I found the recipe easy to make and tasty. I did some online research into how to fold the dumplings and I experienced no difficulty in accomplishing the task. Jason’s method to cook the dumplings is to boil them and they cooked quite quickly, floating to the top of the water with the dumpling wrappers becoming somewhat translucent to signify they were done, all in the span of about 5 minutes.

It’s fun to try others’ recipes and, through this initiative, I discovered another Asian-inspired dish to add to the menu of my next Chinese-themed dinner.

Here is Jason Lee’s Beef and Coriander Dumplings recipe:

Jason Lee's Beef and Coriander Dumplings, served with spicy chili oil
Jason Lee’s Beef and Coriander Dumplings, served with spicy chili oil

Beef and Coriander Dumplings

(Served with spicy chili oil)

 
1 package dumpling wrappers (approx. 35)

 Filling:
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup finely chopped green onion
3/4 cup chopped coriander
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white  pepper
1 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and ground
3 tablespoon water

Garnish:
3 tablespoon crushed peanuts
3 tablespoon chopped coriander
3 tablespoon chili oil
1 teaspoon ground Szechuan peppercorn

Procedure:

  1. Add all filling ingredients into a large clean bowl and thoroughly mix until everything is combined.
  2. Spoon about 1 tablespoon of filling into wrapped and fold/pleat into dumpling.
  3. Boil dumplings in a large pot in batches – about 10 at a time – for 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to serving bowls.
  4. Spoon chili oil over dumplings, sprinkle peanuts, coriander and ground Szechuan peppercorn.

Be sure to visit Jason’s blog, Shut Up and Eat, to read his posting about his recipe.


For more great ground beef-inspired recipes, visit www.thinkbeef.ca

Disclosure: This post has been sponsored by thinkbeef.ca and I was compensated monetarily for its content and with groceries to make both recipes.

Rethink Beef Global Recipe Swap Campaign: Moussaka

Yield: Apx. 6-8 servings

A Greek-inspired dish featuring layers of ground beef, potatoes, and a tomato sauce all covered in a delectable white sauce topping

Ingredients

  • Meat Sauce:
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 1½ tbsp olive oil
  • ¾ cup onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup celery, chopped fine
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 14 oz canned crushed tomatoes
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1/3 cup beef broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1¼ tsp dried oregano
  • 1¼ tsp dried basil
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Roasted Potato Layer
  • 2¼ lb russet potatoes, peeled and sliced into about ¼” thick slices
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper
  • White Sauce:
  • 2½ tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 1 2/3 cups warm milk
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks (room temperature), slightly beaten
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • Pinch pepper
  • 2/3 cup grated Gouda cheese
  • Breadcrumb Layer:
  • ¾ cup fine bread crumbs
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • Topping:
  • 2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Meat Sauce: Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef and scramble fry until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Transfer meat to wire sieve positioned over bowl to drain off excess liquid. Set meat aside.
  2. Return skillet to heat and add 1½ tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and celery. Cook until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional 30-60 seconds while stirring mixture.
  3. Add the drained ground beef, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine, beef broth, bay leaf, spices, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to simmer and cook, uncovered, for about 20-25 minutes, or until most (but not all) of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and discard bay leaf.
  4. Roast Potatoes: While meat sauce is simmering, heat the oven to 425°F. Place potato slices in large bowl and drizzle very lightly with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss potatoes to coat in oil. Place the sliced potatoes, single layer, on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Roast for about 12-15 minutes, or just until potatoes are barely fork tender. Remove potatoes from oven and reduce heat to 375°F for baking Moussaka.
  5. White Sauce: In medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking constantly for about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in the warm milk. Bring mixture just to the boiling point. Remove approximately ¼ cup of the hot liquid and whisk into the slightly beaten egg yolks to temper them so they don’t curdle. Whisk the eggs into saucepan mixture. Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, about 1 minute. Stir in the Gouda cheese until melted. Mixture should be of spreading consistency when sufficiently thickened.
  6. Breadcrumb Layer:
  7. In small bowl, mix breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese together.
  8. Assembly: Grease deep 9” baking pan. Arrange half the potato slices in the bottom of the baking pan, overlapping the potatoes slightly. Sprinkle one-half the breadcrumb-Parmesan cheese mixture over the potatoes. Evenly spread one-half the meat sauce over the potatoes and breadcrumbs. Place a layer of the remaining potato slices, followed by the rest of the breadcrumbs, and then the remaining meat sauce. Evenly spread the white sauce over the entire mixture. Sprinkle with 1½ tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese and 1/8 tsp nutmeg.
  9. Place baking pan on a rimmed baking sheet lined with tin foil to catch any spills should casserole bubble out. Bake for about 45 minutes or until bubbly and the top lightly browned. Remove from oven and let stand for 20-30 minutes before cutting and serving. Serve with a green salad and rustic bread, rolls, or biscuits.

Notes

NOTE: Please read entire post which is filled with tips and hints on making Moussaka which are not mentioned in the recipe itself.

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#RethinkBeef Global Recipe Swap Campaign - Moussaka #sponsored
#RethinkBeef Global Recipe Swap Campaign – Moussaka #sponsored

Gluten-free Blueberry Muffins

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Gluten-free Blueberry Muffins
Gluten-free Blueberry Muffins

Blueberry muffins are a favorite and, while I have a “go-to” recipe for blueberry muffins that calls for regular gluten flour, I did not have one that was gluten-free. So, I set about developing one of my own and this is the result. My aim was to create a bistro, or deli-style, muffin and I am pleased with the end result.

I have discovered several things about gluten-free muffin making.  First, some gluten-free flours have a “grainy”, or an almost “gritty”, texture to them and this will come through in the baked item. Some flours can result in, what I would describe as, gummy texture products. Hence, not all gluten-free flours yield good textured muffins. And, in my view, some gluten-free flours just don’t have a pleasing taste. Second, I find gluten-free flours seem to react differently than gluten flours to leavening.  And, third, it often takes more ingredients and flavor boosters to end up with a tasty muffin that, as closely as possible, replicates a regular muffin. The remedies?  It often takes a combination of more than one gluten-free flour to arrive at a satisfactory result. I add more leavening to my gluten-free muffins than I would usually add to gluten muffins to get that lovely gentle dome shape on the top that is so desired in muffin making.  I bump up the spices and other flavorings (e.g., orange juice, maple syrup, orange rind, and applesauce) to get deep appetizing flavor.

The Bistro's Gluten-free Blueberry Muffins
The Bistro’s Gluten-free Blueberry Muffins

My favorite gluten-free flours to use in muffins are a combination of coconut flour, almond flour, and gluten-free oat flour. I use these in combination with gluten-free all-purpose flour. I find that, if I use just the gluten-free all-purpose flour for the recipe’s entire flour content, the muffins often lack sufficient structure, flavor, and I sometimes detect a grainy/gritty texture. Adding a combination of other flours with different textures tends to solve this problem for me.  The coconut and almond flours add beautiful flavor to baked foods. The addition of some potato starch and zanthan gum also helps with structure and crumb texture. With the availability of bulk food stores, it is easy and convenient to purchase just the amounts of specialty flours and starches called for in recipes rather than having to buy large, expensive bags of them. It’s also a better way to ensure fresher product.

My gluten-free blueberry muffin recipe calls for either eggnog, almond milk, or whole milk.  I have tested this recipe with all three products and had equally good results but must say that the eggnog makes the richest muffins with the most pleasing and complex flavor. However, to make the muffins dairy-free, by all means, use almond milk – it works very well.  The recipe calls for maple syrup and plain works fine. I had some lavender and chai infused maple syrup on hand and, since the lavender plays well with blueberries, it added a layer of pleasing flavor complexity. Some recipes just do require a layering of flavors and, sometimes, one might think that such a small amount of an ingredient called for  could be left out of the recipe with no notice; however, I believe all called-for ingredients in a recipe contribute to the end result, even if they are just playing small supporting roles and are not the main star of the recipe.

This recipe for blueberry muffins makes one dozen muffins and the muffin cup size should be one-half cup capacity. I like to use my square muffin tins for many muffin recipes. Apart from simply liking the shape, the square muffins are easy to wrap, store, and freeze. Several times a year, I go on a muffin-making frolic, making different kinds of muffins for the freezer. I will bag up different varieties and freeze them so they are quick and easy to pull out for weekday coffeebreaks at work.  If a muffin does not freeze well, it will not get added to my repertoire of batch-making muffins.  These blueberry muffins freeze very well.

To get the desired dome-shaped muffin, the muffins need to start out in a relatively high oven temperature – i.e., 450F.   Using the high temperature to begin the baking process allows the outside of the muffin to quickly set while still allowing the inside to continue to rise.  This also gives that nice soft muffin top.  As soon as I place the muffins in the oven, I drop the temperature back to 400F.

The Bistro's Gluten-free Blueberry Muffins
The Bistro’s Gluten-free Blueberry Muffins

The texture of a good muffin should have a loose, coarse interior crumb, like those shown in the photograph above.  Do not overmix muffin batter as this will cause the muffins to be tough, rubbery, and somewhat heavy.  Stir only until the dry ingredients are just barely incorporated.  In fact, in muffins in which I am adding fruit (which gets added last, using the “folding” technique), I don’t completely incorporate all the dry ingredients to the wet because, when the fruit is folded in, the dry ingredients will get further incorporated then.  The batter should be lumpy, not smooth.

Muffins will quickly dry out if they are overbaked.   I have found, in my oven, that about 20 minutes bakes these muffins perfectly but, as every oven is a bit different,  I suggest checking the muffins at about the 16-17 minute mark and, just as soon as they spring back to a light finger touch, insert a cake tester or toothpick into the center of a muffin – if it comes out clean, the muffins are done. Let the baked muffins rest in the baking tin for 5-7 minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

The Bistro's Gluten-free Blueberry Muffins
The Bistro’s Gluten-free Blueberry Muffins

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

The Bistro’s Gluten-free Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients:
1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
1/3 cup coconut flour
1/3 cup almond flour
¼ cup gluten-free oat flour
2 tbsp potato starch
1½ tsp zanthan gum
¼ cup gluten-free large flake rolled oats
5½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp allspice
1½ tbsp ground flax seed
2/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tbsp finely grated orange rind

2 large eggs (room temperature), lightly beaten
2/3 cup eggnog, almond milk, or whole milk
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup orange juice
1½ tsp vanilla
2 tbsp maple syrup, plain or flavor-infused (e.g., lavender and chai)
1/3 cup applesauce

1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Method:

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Use muffin tins with cups that have ½-cup holding capacity. Prepare muffin tins by greasing or spraying each muffin cup with cooking oil, ensuring the top of the muffin tin is also well greased.

In large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and grated orange rind by whisking very well.  Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and set aside.

In separate bowl, or large measuring cup, whisk together the lightly beaten eggs, eggnog (or almond or whole milk), oil, orange juice, vanilla, maple syrup, and applesauce.

Pour wet ingredients into well in the dry ingredients.  Combine just until dry ingredients are barely incorporated. Do not overmix. Gently fold in the blueberries.

Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins, filling almost to the muffin cup rim.  Let batter sit for 5 minutes before baking.

Transfer muffins to oven and immediately reduce heat to 400°F.  Bake 18-20 minutes or until muffins are just firm to the touch and a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Let muffins rest in muffin cups for 5-7 minutes then gently remove from pan and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: Apx. 12 muffins

The Bistro's Gluten-free Blueberry Muffins

Yield: Apx. 12 muffins

These flavor-packed deli-style gluten-free blueberry muffins are light and moist with a tender crumb.Hard to believe they are gluten free!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 1/3 cup almond flour
  • ¼ cup gluten-free oat flour
  • 2 tbsp potato starch
  • 1½ tsp zanthan gum
  • ¼ cup gluten-free large flake rolled oats
  • 5½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • 1½ tbsp ground flax seed
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 tbsp finely grated orange rind
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature), lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup eggnog, almond milk, or whole milk
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 1½ tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup, plain or flavor-infused (e.g., lavender and chai)
  • 1/3 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  2. Use muffin tins with cups that have ½-cup holding capacity. Prepare muffin tins by greasing or spraying each muffin cup with cooking oil, ensuring the top of the muffin tin is also well greased.
  3. In large bowl, combine the dry ingredients and grated orange rind by whisking very well. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and set aside.
  4. In separate bowl, or large measuring cup, whisk together the lightly beaten eggs, eggnog (or almond or whole milk), oil, orange juice, vanilla, maple syrup, and applesauce.
  5. Pour wet ingredients into well in the dry ingredients. Combine just until dry ingredients are barely incorporated. Do not overmix. Gently fold in the blueberries.
  6. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins, filling almost to the muffin cup rim. Let batter sit for 5 minutes before baking.
  7. Transfer muffins to oven and immediately reduce heat to 400°F. Bake 18-20 minutes or until muffins are just firm to the touch and a cake tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  8. Let muffins rest in muffin cups for 5-7 minutes then gently remove from pan and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Notes

Please be sure to read the entire blog posting that accompanies this recipe as it contains several tips and hints on making gluten-free muffins.

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The Bistro's Gluten-free Blueberry Muffins
The Bistro’s Gluten-free Blueberry Muffins

Chicken and Mushroom Crepes with Cheese Sauce

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

Crepes filled with delectable fillings are one of my favorite meals. Chicken and Mushroom Crepes with Cheese Sauce are a real treat and a lot easier to make than one might think. At one time considered the fare of stylish restaurants and bistros, they can actually be very easily made at home.

I often make up a large batch of the crepes and freeze them, in between layers of plastic wrap, in a sealed freezer bag. If they are already made in advance, it does speed up meal preparation.

Crepes can be made with all-purpose flour or, if following a gluten-free diet, made with gluten-free 1-to-1 baking flour. In fact, the crepes in the photos in this posting are made with the 1-to-1 gluten-free flour and are very tasty and have a good soft texture. The crepe batter benefits from spending an hour in the refrigerator before being cooked. I find this gives greater structure to the crepe batter than cooking the crepes immediately after the ingredients are mixed together. The 1/4-cup measuring cup is a good size to use for the batter needed for each crepe.

A slope-sided non-stick 8″ skillet is perfect for making crepes.  Make sure the skillet is hot before adding batter and that only the minimal amount of butter is added to the pan. The best way to get thin crepes is to hold the 1/4-cup with the batter in one hand and the hot pan in the other. Pour the batter in to the pan while quickly tilting and swirling the pan to evenly distribute the batter. Cook the crepe until the gloss is gone from the top of the crepe and it starts to look a bit dry, small tiny bubbles begin to appear, and the edges of the crepe start to curl slightly. I use the tip of a fork to gently life the edge of the crepe, then I grab it with my fingers, and flip it over to the other side. The second side only needs about 15-20 seconds of cooking.  Have a couple of clean tea towels spread out on the counter and, as soon as each crepe is cooked, flip it out on to the tea towel. A small amount of additional butter may need to be added to the pan after every few crepes are cooked. This will ensure that the batter moves freely in the pan. Even though pan manufacturers claim pans to be non-stick, I find they benefit from the addition of a small amount of butter.

My recipe is a good use of leftover chicken (or turkey); however, if you are craving chicken crepes and don’t happen to have any leftover chicken, simply cook some chicken breasts especially for the crepes. It will take approximately one (1) pound of raw boneless, skinless chicken breasts to yield about two (2) cups of cooked cubed chicken.  When I am preparing the chicken breasts for cooking, I mix about 1/2 tsp liquid chicken bouillon with about a couple of tablespoons of water and drizzle it over the chicken. I will sprinkle a small amount of herbs and spices (e.g., dillweed, cumin, granulated garlic, or pretty much whatever strikes my fancy at the time) over the chicken, cover, and bake in the oven until done.  This adds some extra flavor to the chicken which can, otherwise, be a bit bland.

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

I recommend making this recipe in steps starting with the crepes, then the cheese sauce, and finally the filling.  I enhance the cheese sauce with the injection of some flavor boosters that include chicken stock, granulated garlic, paprika, and cayenne.  They do make a difference.  Those following a gluten-free diet will need to ensure that the chicken stock they use in this recipe is gluten-free.  If gluten-free chicken stock is unavailable, this sauce may be made entirely with milk though the flavor will obviously differ somewhat. The thickener in the sauce is all-purpose flour and, for those on a gluten-free diet, I have had great success using the gluten-free 1-to-1 flour as a thickener for this sauce.  While the sauce can be made entirely with grated cheddar cheese, I find it can be a bit too intense. Therefore, I use a blend of cheeses, my favorite being a mozzarella-provolone-parmesan mix .  With so many packages of pre-shredded cheeses on the market, it’s a quick and easy way to get a blend of cheeses for a recipe.

The filling is easy to make and only takes basic, simple ingredients that include two (2) aromatics (onion and celery), sliced button mushrooms and, of course, the cubed cooked chicken.  What holds this filling together is a portion of the cheese sauce. Don’t add so much cheese sauce that the filling becomes soupy – all that should be needed is about 1/2 cup of the sauce to bind the filling ingredients together.

To fill the crepes, simply divvy up the filling between the eight (8) crepes, placing the filling along the center line of each crepe. Gently fold one side of the crepe over the filling and roll again to form a cylinder.

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

If you want to plate the crepes, then I recommend baking them together in a baking pan (a 7″x11″ baking pan works well).  I like to bake my crepes in individual au gratin dishes like those in the photo below. I find they are great for presentation and they also ensure that each serving receives an equal amount of the cheese sauce. For presentation purposes, the crepes also look finished and undisturbed when brought to the table in their individual serving dishes.

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

 

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Chicken and Mushroom Crepes with Cheese Sauce

Ingredients:

Crepes:
2 large eggs
1 cup flour (to make gluten-free, use 1 cup of 1-to-1 gluten-free flour)
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup whole milk
2 tbsp melted butter

Cheese Sauce:
¼ cup butter
¼ cup flour (to make gluten-free, use ¼ cup of 1-to-1 gluten-free flour)
Scant ½ tsp salt
½ tsp granulated garlic
Dash paprika
Dash cayenne
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
1 cup grated cheese mixture (e.g., mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan)

Filling:
2 tbsp butter
½ cup onion, finely chopped
½ cup celery, finely chopped
1 cup button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 cups cubed cooked chicken
Fresh herbs for garnish (e.g., parsley, chives, tarragon)

Method:

Step 1 – Make the crepes.  In large measuring cup or bowl and using an immersion blender, beat the eggs lightly.  Combine the flour and salt and beat in to the egg alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour (3 additions of flour and 2 additions of milk).  Beat in the melted butter and beat an additional 30 seconds, or until batter is smooth.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate batter for 1 hour.

Over medium heat, melt apx. 1½ tsp butter in a 8” non-stick skillet with sloped sides. Using a ¼-cup measuring cup, scoop up batter. Pour the batter in to the heated skillet while quickly swirling and tilting the pan to ensure batter distributes evenly and completely over the bottom of the pan. Return pan to heat and cook crepe until top loses its gloss, tiny bubbles start to appear, and the edges of the crepe start to slightly curl. Gently lift an edge of the crepe away from the side of the pan with a tip of a fork and grab the crepe with fingers and flip it over.  Cook the second side of the crepe for 15-20 seconds. Flip the crepe onto a clean tea towel. Repeat for remaining crepes, adding small amounts of butter to the pan, if necessary, to keep the crepes from sticking to the pan.

Step 2 – Make the cheese sauce. In small bowl, combine and mix the flour, salt, granulated garlic, paprika, and cayenne.  In medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat.  Stir in the flour mixture and cook until frothy.  Whisk in the chicken stock and milk.  Cook sauce, until thickened and smooth, stirring constantly to prevent scorching.  Stir in the cheese until melted.

Step 3 – Make the filling.  Preheat oven to 350°F.  In medium-sized skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Add the onion and celery and sauté for 3-5 minutes, until onion becomes translucent, stirring frequently to prevent vegetables from burning.  Add the mushrooms and sauté for approximately 3-5 minutes.  Remove skillet from heat and add the diced cooked chicken.  Add approximately ½ cup of the cheese sauce to the vegetable-chicken mixture and stir to combine.

Step 4: Assemble the crepes.  Grease 4 individual au gratin dishes or one oblong baking pan (apx. 7”x11”) that will hold 8 filled crepes.  Divide the filling mixture between the 8 crepes by placing filling in the center of each crepe.  Gently fold crepe over filling and roll again into a cylinder shape and place in baking dish(es). If using au gratin dishes, place 2 filled crepes in each dish. Pour the remaining cheese sauce over crepes to cover, leaving both ends of the crepes uncovered.

Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Remove from oven and, if desired, sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs.

Serving Suggestion: Serve with favorite green salad.

Yield:  4 servings, 2 crepes each

Chicken and Mushroom Crepes with Cheese Sauce

Yield: 4 servings

Serving Size: 2 crepes per serving

A delectable chicken and mushroom filling encased in a thin, soft-textured crepe and smothered in a rich cheesy sauce.

Ingredients

  • Crepes:
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup flour (to make gluten-free, use 1 cup of 1-to-1 gluten-free flour)
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • Cheese Sauce:
  • ¼ cup butter
  • ¼ cup flour (to make gluten-free, use ¼ cup of 1-to-1 gluten-free flour)
  • Scant ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp granulated garlic
  • Dash paprika
  • Dash cayenne
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 cup grated cheese mixture (e.g., mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan)
  • Filling:
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ½ cup onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup celery, finely chopped
  • 1 cup button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 2 cups cubed cooked chicken
  • Fresh herbs for garnish (e.g., parsley, chives, tarragon)

Instructions

  1. Step 1 - Make the crepes. In large measuring cup or bowl and using an immersion blender, beat the eggs lightly. Combine the flour and salt and beat in to the egg alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour (3 additions of flour and 2 additions of milk). Beat in the melted butter and beat an additional 30 seconds, or until batter is smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate batter for 1 hour.
  2. Over medium heat, melt apx. 1½ tsp butter in a 8” non-stick skillet with sloped sides. Using a ¼-cup measuring cup, scoop up batter. Pour the batter in to the heated skillet while quickly swirling and tilting the pan to ensure batter distributes evenly and completely over the bottom of the pan. Return pan to heat and cook crepe until top loses its gloss, tiny bubbles start to appear, and the edges of the crepe start to slightly curl. Gently lift an edge of the crepe away from the side of the pan with a tip of a fork and grab the crepe with fingers and flip it over. Cook the second side of the crepe for 15-20 seconds. Flip the crepe onto a clean tea towel. Repeat for remaining crepes, adding small amounts of butter to the pan, if necessary, to keep the crepes from sticking to the pan.
  3. Step 2 - Make the cheese sauce. In small bowl, combine and mix the flour, salt, granulated garlic, paprika, and cayenne. In medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour mixture and cook until frothy. Whisk in the chicken stock and milk. Cook sauce, until thickened and smooth, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Stir in the cheese until melted.
  4. Step 3 - Make the filling. Preheat oven to 350°F. In medium-sized skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and sauté for 3-5 minutes, until onion becomes translucent, stirring frequently to prevent vegetables from burning. Add the mushrooms and sauté for approximately 3-5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and add the diced cooked chicken. Add approximately ½ cup of the cheese sauce to the vegetable-chicken mixture and stir to combine.
  5. Step 4: Assemble the crepes. Grease 4 individual au gratin dishes or one oblong baking pan (apx. 7”x11”) that will hold 8 filled crepes. Divide the filling mixture between the 8 crepes by placing filling in the center of each crepe. Gently fold crepe over filling and roll again into a cylinder shape and place in baking dish(es). If using au gratin dishes, place 2 filled crepes in each dish. Pour the remaining cheese sauce over crepes to cover, leaving both ends of the crepes uncovered.
  6. Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until hot and bubbly. Remove from oven and, if desired, sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs.
  7. Serving Suggestion: Serve with favorite green salad.

Notes

Please read entire blog posting for additional details and hints on making the crepes that are not included in this recipe.

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

Ham Lentil Soup Recipe

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Today, I am sharing my newly-developed recipe for Ham Lentil Soup that is made from a leftover ham bone, broth, and ham.

If you are a regular follower of my food blog, by now you have likely figured out that I am a fan of leftovers and of foods that generate leftovers that can be used in other dishes.  One of my favorite comfort food meals is a boiled ham dinner.  I blogged about this back in 2013. I buy a large smoked pork picnic ham, place it in a big stockpot with lots of water and boil it for a good while then add the vegetables to make a meal-in-one-pot soup.  Easy-peasy and, oh, ever-so-tasty. However, these hams are almost always quite large and there is a lot of meat. After a couple of days of leftover ham with scalloped potatoes, sandwiches, and perhaps my Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole, I find it’s time to do something else with the ham and the flavorful broth in which it was boiled.

I’ve decided that all that good ham broth should not go to waste so I have developed a recipe to use the leftover ham broth and ham to make a tasty soup… a second soup, of sorts, from the same piece of meat.  Ham Lentil Soup is a good economical way to use leftovers.  You will need to refer back to my 2013 post for directions on cooking the ham in order to get the ham broth, so go ahead and click here for those instructions.  Make sure you use enough water to cook the ham so that you end up with 7 cups of ham broth and, remember, the water will reduce as the ham cooks so you will most likely need to top it up during the cooking process.

Ham Lentil Soup
Ham Lentil Soup

Now, this leftover Ham Lentil Soup could be made without the ham broth, instead using all chicken broth or vegetable broth. However, what would be missing would be the wonderful flavor of the natural ham broth. So, after I have removed the cooked ham from the stock pot, what I do is refrigerate the ham broth overnight. A layer of fat will form on the top of the broth. Skim all of that off and discard it.  Strain the broth through a cheesecloth lined strainer to remove any remaining whole bits of fat.  Place 7 cups of the ham broth along with the meaty ham bone striped of most of its meat, and the addition of several wonderful spices into a large stockpot. The bone has great flavor in it and the spices will enhance the ham broth and form a flavorful foundational base for the soup.  It’s the broth that makes this soup so it needs lots of flavor. After this broth has cooked slowly in a large stock pot under cover for about 45 minutes, it will have reduced down to about 4 cups or so. Strain this so you have a clear broth.

Then, get those aromatics cooking in the oil. Add the strained ham broth and top it up with 4 cups of vegetable broth so you have 8 cups of liquid.  The great part about this soup is that if you end up with more than 4 cups of strained ham broth, just add less vegetable broth or, conversely, if you have less than 4 cups of ham broth, top it up with more vegetable broth.  Follow the recipe for when to add the different vegetables and lentils that require different cooking times. If there is a vegetable you don’t like, simply replace it with an equal amount of a vegetable you prefer.

Ham Lentil Soup
Ham Lentil Soup

This is a great way to totally maximize the use of a large ham. When you get tired of it, dice up the leftover ham and use it in this soup. Anywhere from 1 1/2 to 2 cups of leftover ham will suffice for this recipe. It’s meant to be a brothy, not thick, soup. I have added some orange lentils to this soup for extra substance but also because lentils are a good source of dietary fiber, protein, and minerals. I have chosen orange lentils because they cook in a relatively short time, usually about 20-25 minutes. Don’t overcook the soup after adding the lentils or they will turn to mush. The lentils will still be flavorful but they will have lost their shape if cooked too long.

This Ham Lentil Soup is a good way to maximize and change up leftover ham and it also freezes well.

Ham Lentil Soup
Ham Lentil Soup

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Ham Lentil Soup

Ingredients:

Step 1:
1 leftover meaty ham bone
7 cups liquid (ham stock, chicken or vegetable broth)
2 whole star anise
10 whole cloves
½ cinnamon stick (about 3”)
3 cardamon pods
5 whole peppercorns
1 large unpeeled garlic clove
2 whole allspice
2 bay leaves

Step 2:
2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
2/3 cup onion, chopped
2/3 cup celery, chopped (apx. 1 large stalk)
1/3 cup parsnip, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups strained broth from Step 1 above
2 vegetable stock cubes
4 cups hot water
¾ cup carrots, diced
½ cup turnip, diced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried thyme
¾ tsp dried basil
½ tsp dried oregano
½ tsp marjoram
½ tsp summer savory
¼ tsp cloves
Pepper, to taste
4 oz (apx. ¾ cup) orange lentils, rinsed and drained
1 cup potato, diced
19 oz can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup frozen corn
½ cup frozen peas
1½ – 2 cups cooked leftover ham, diced
Fresh parsley for garnish

Method:

Step 1: Place leftover ham bone in large stock pot. Add 7 cups liquid (either ham stock left over from boiling the picnic ham or, alternatively, use chicken or vegetable stock).  Add star anise, whole cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, peppercorns, garlic clove, allspice, and bay leaves. Cover and boil gently over medium-low heat for about 45 minutes. Remove from heat and strain through fine mesh strainer.  Discard bone and spices. Set broth aside. This should yield approximately 4 cups broth.

Step 2: Heat oil over medium heat in the large stock pot.  Add the onions, celery, and parsnip.  Sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute, stirring briskly.

Return strained broth from Step 1 to stock pot.  Dissolve 2 vegetable stock cubes in 4 cups hot water. Add to the strained broth. Bring to a boil.  Add carrots, turnip, and spices. Cover and cook over medium low heat for 15 minutes. Add the lentils.  Cook for 10 minutes then add the potato and drained kidney beans.  Cook for about 10 minutes then add the corn, peas, and cooked ham. Cook for about 10-15 minutes longer, or until vegetables are fork tender.

Yield:  Apx. 12 – 1-cup servings

Ham Lentil Soup

Yield: Apx. 12 - 1-cup servings

This flavorful ham lentil soup makes good use of leftover ham bone, broth, and ham along with a mixture of vegetables, spices, and lentils.

Ingredients

  • Step 1:
  • 1 leftover meaty ham bone
  • 7 cups liquid (ham stock, chicken or vegetable broth)
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 10 whole cloves
  • ½ cinnamon stick (about 3”)
  • 3 cardamon pods
  • 5 whole peppercorns
  • 1 large unpeeled garlic clove
  • 2 whole allspice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Step 2:
  • 2-3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup onion, chopped
  • 2/3 cup celery, chopped (apx. 1 large stalk)
  • 1/3 cup parsnip, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups strained broth from Step 1 above
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • 4 cups hot water
  • ¾ cup carrots, diced
  • ½ cup turnip, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • ¾ tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp marjoram
  • ½ tsp summer savory
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 4 oz (apx. ¾ cup) orange lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup potato, diced
  • 19 oz can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup frozen corn
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 1½ - 2 cups cooked leftover ham, diced
  • Fresh parsley for garnish

Instructions

  1. Step 1: Place leftover ham bone in large stock pot. Add 7 cups liquid (either ham stock left over from boiling the picnic ham or, alternatively, use chicken or vegetable stock). Add star anise, whole cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, peppercorns, garlic clove, allspice, and bay leaves. Cover and boil gently over medium-low heat for about 45 minutes. Remove from heat and strain through fine mesh strainer. Discard bone and spices. Set broth aside. This should yield approximately 4 cups broth.
  2. Step 2: Heat oil over medium heat in the large stock pot. Add the onions, celery, and parsnip. Sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute, stirring briskly.
  3. Return strained broth from Step 1 to stock pot. Dissolve 2 vegetable stock cubes in 4 cups hot water. Add to the strained broth. Bring to a boil. Add carrots, turnip, and spices. Cover and cook over medium low heat for 15 minutes. Add the lentils. Cook for 10 minutes then add the potato and drained kidney beans. Cook for about 10 minutes then add the corn, peas, and cooked ham. Cook for about 10-15 minutes longer, or until vegetables are fork tender.

Notes

Please read entire blog post for additional information on making this soup.

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Ham and Lentil Soup
Ham and Lentil Soup

(Mostly) PEI and Maritime Food – Good Food for a Good Life!