Tag Archives: macaroni and cheese

Meal Planning – Week 1

I am a big believer in meal planning and follow it regularly.  I recommend meal planning for several reasons:

  • Eliminates last minute meal planning – that’s when you leave work with no idea what’s for dinner and, suddenly, as you pass a supermarket with a deli or prepared food section or a fast food outlet and, well, you know the story – that becomes dinner.
  • Saves money and reduces food waste – have a plan in mind for using leftover meat such as ham, turkey, or roast beef. For example, use the leftover meat in sandwiches, casseroles, and/or soups. These are great ways to stretch the food dollar and eliminate food waste.
  • Healthier way to eat – You will eat less pre-packaged foods that often have way too many preservatives, additives, and other unhealthy ingredients. Meal planning means you are in control, to the extent possible, of what is in your food.
  • Less stress – Once you have a plan in place for meals for the week, you don’t have to stress each day over what to make for meals.

The keys to good meal planning are:

  • Make meals with ingredients you know your family will like – doesn’t have to be fancy, new, or creative. Sometimes, the old faithful comfort foods are the best.
  • Make the meal plan on the weekend and formulate the shopping list BEFORE you go to the supermarket and then stick to the plan, avoiding distractions of already-prepared or frozen entrées that supermarkets display to tempt shoppers.
  • Make your To-Do list for the meal preparation for the week – for example, if you are making baked beans on Saturday, get those beans soaking overnight on Friday evening.
  • Read each recipe carefully to ensure you will have all the ingredients and that the method is easy to understand and do-able in the time in which you have to do the food preparation.
  • Watch the supermarket sales flyers. Know your favorite dishes and buy ingredients for them when they are on sale. You’ll be more likely to stick to a meal plan if you already have most or all of the ingredients for a recipe on hand.
  • Plan around what’s in season. One of my favorite soups is cream of cauliflower which freezes well (provided whole milk, not fat-reduced, is used). I make several batches of this soup each fall when the locally-grown cauliflower is in season. I would not make it, however, in January with imported cauliflower that has traveled thousands of miles for days and is highly priced. Good meal planning needs to take place, on an ongoing basis, throughout the year.

Here is my suggested meal plan for the upcoming week, focusing primarily on dinners with some suggestions for a couple of lunches making the most of a boiled picnic ham. I’ve provided a list of the main ingredients that, for the most part, would probably involve a shopping trip to the supermarket for most. However, as always, read each recipe thoroughly and carefully to create your own shopping list as I have not listed what I consider to be “staple” items like milk, butter, eggs, spices, etc.  Click on the green hotlinks to access the recipes.

MONDAY

Blueberry Muffins – These are great breakfast or coffee break muffins and they freeze very well.  Nice treat to start off the week!
Shopping List: Blueberries (fresh or frozen), orange juice, orange rind

Blueberry Muffins
Blueberry Muffins

Dinner:  Meatloaf
Serve with mashed or riced potatoes and your favorite side of veggies. Homemade mustard pickles go great with meatloaf!

Shopping List: Ground beef, onion, prepared mustard, tomato soup, dry onion soup mix, graham wafer crumbs, fine bread crumbs, garlic powder, vegetables of choice

Meatloaf with Riced Potatoes and Mixed Vegetables
Meatloaf with Riced Potatoes and Mixed Vegetables

Dessert:  Gingerbread
At least once every winter, I have to have a dose of this yummy comfort food! Drizzle with brown sugar sauce for an extra-special treat!
Shopping List: Applesauce, molasses, coffee

Gingerbread
Gingerbread with Whipped Cream and Brown Sugar Sauce

 

TUESDAY

Homemade White Bread – This is always such a treat!  This bread will be super good with the ham sandwiches this week!
Shopping List: All-purpose flour, dry yeast, milk, butter/shortening

White Bread
Homemade White Bread

Dinner:  Old-fashioned Boiled Ham Dinner – This is truly dinner-in-a-pot and is my definition of “comfort food”!  The meat and vegetables are all cooked in the same broth in the same pot. Make sure you cook enough veggies for Wednesday night as this always tastes even better the second day. Easy to heat the vegetables in the microwave and, poof, you have two nights’ meals prepared in one effort. You’ll want those mustard pickles or mustard beans with this dinner!
Shopping List: Smoked pork picnic shoulder (ham), parsnips, carrots, rutabaga (turnip), potatoes

Boiled Ham Dinner
Boiled Ham DInner

Dessert:  Blueberry Grunt
This is such an incredibly yummy dessert – serve it with your favorite vanilla ice cream!
Shopping List: Blueberries (fresh or frozen) and lemon rind, vanilla ice cream

Blueberry Grunt
Blueberry Grunt

 

WEDNESDAY

Lunch:  Ham Sandwiches made with homemade white bread!  Don’t forget the mustard!

Dinner:  Leftover boiled ham dinner from Tuesday.

Dessert: Cherry Wink Cookies
Shopping List: Dates, cornflake crumbs, maraschino cherries

Cherry Wink Cookie
Cherry Wink Cookie

 

THURSDAY

Homemade Tea Biscuits
Shopping list: Whole milk, whipping cream, unsalted butter

Tea Biscuits
Tea Biscuits

Lunch:  Ham Sandwiches

Dinner:  Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole – this is a great way to use up left-over cooked ham and stretch its use. Serve these with those tasty biscuits and perhaps a green salad!
Shopping List: Rice, cream of celery soup, sour cream, liquid chicken bouillon, broccoli, canned pineapple chunks, Parmesan cheese, fine bread crumbs, leftover cooked ham, and ingredients for a green salad and dressing

Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole
Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole

Dessert: Decadent Chocolate Chip Squares
Shopping List:  Chocolate chips and coconut

Decadent Chocolate Chip Squares
Decadent Chocolate Chip Squares

FRIDAY

Dinner:  Mac ‘n Cheese with a green salad and homemade tea biscuits
Shopping List: Elbow macaroni, liquid chicken bouillon, cheddar cheese, Parmesan cheese, salad ingredients and dressing

Mac 'n Cheese
My Island Bistro Kitchen Macaroni and Cheese

Dessert: Cinnamon Sweet Bread
Shopping List: Staple baking ingredients

Cinnamon Sweet Bread
Cinnamon Sweet Bread

SATURDAY

Dinner: Maple-Orange Sauced Chicken Breasts with Rice
An extra special weekend treat!
Shopping List: Boneless skinless chicken breasts, onion, fennel, orange juice, orange rind, chicken stock, maple syrup, orange marmalade, rice

Maple-Orange Sauced Chicken
Maple-Orange Sauced Chicken

Dessert: Coconut Cream Pie
One of the best pies going!
Shopping List:  9” pie shell, coconut milk, whole milk or cream, sweetened shredded coconut

Coconut Cream Pie
Coconut Cream Pie

SUNDAY

Sunday Breakfast:  Pancakes

Pancakes
Pancakes

Dinner:  Bistro Burgers with Home Fries
Shopping List: Ground chuck, mayonnaise, maple syrup, ketchup, rhubarb relish, Dijon mustard, sour cream, onion salt, Parmesan cheese, Blueberry BBQ sauce, dry onion soup mix, bread crumbs, Cheddar cheese slices, red onion, tomato, prosciutto, fresh pineapple, bread and butter pickles, hamburger rolls, potatoes (for home fries)

"The Bistro Burger"
“The Bistro Burger”

Dessert: Leftover Coconut Cream Pie

Meal planning can be a challenge, especially with high food prices, ingredient availability (particularly in winter for fresh local ingredients) and, of course, for those who are busy and time-challenged.  However, with having a plan in place and establishing a routine for meal preparation, it is a way to eat better, save money, reduce food waste, and eliminate the stress of last-minute meal preparation that can sometimes result in unhealthy food choices. For those with children, it’s a good way to help them make good food choices and engage them in meal preparation by assigning them tasks to help with the work of making meals.

For my Week 2 Meal Plan, click here.

For my Week 3 Meal Plan, click here.

 

Blueberry Grunt

Blueberry Grunt

I don’t know about you but once the Christmas holidays are over, I crave comfort foods.  You know, the foods that are basic, nostalgic, or that you have a sentimental attachment to and that take you down memory lane.  Some might even refer to these dishes as vintage.  Maybe your mom made them for you when you were a child or you remember them from visits to grandma’s house.  I’m talking about foods like macaroni and cheese, baked beans, scalloped potatoes, apple pie or crisp, homemade stews and “boiled dinners“, and baked bread.  Cottage pie, rice pudding, roast chicken dinners, meatloaf with mashed potatoes, and fruit cobblers are other comfort foods commonly enjoyed in North American culture.  There are many other dishes that bring us comfort in the cold Canadian winters so this list is not exhaustive and what constitutes comfort food may vary between cultures and regions of Canada.

These foods, in their traditional content, are by no means gourmet fare nor are they necessarily devoid of calories.  They’re typically plain and simple stick-to-the-ribs kind of fare and they generate feelings of contentment and satisfaction …  you feel warm and cozy when eating the meal.  These kinds of dishes take basic, easy-to-find ingredients and are not usually difficult or complicated to make.  They’re the kinds of foods that, when you walk into a home where they are being prepared, your appetite is immediately whetted and you harken back to early memories of enjoying those foods.  They are hearty classics and endure over time, generation after generation.  Yes, even the old tuna casserole is still considered a comfort food by many!

This month, I am going to focus many of my blog postings on some of my favorite comfort foods.  Today, I am starting with my recipe for Blueberry Grunt.  I don’t know the origin of this dessert or how it got its name but it’s really just a fruit cobbler – a slightly thickened fruit sauce on the bottom topped by a biscuit-like dumpling.  This dessert is often made on the stove top where the dumplings are put in the pot on top of the bubbling blueberry sauce, covered and let simmer for about 15 minutes.  However, my recipe calls for the dessert to be baked in the oven.

Baked Blueberry Grunt

My featured Island product in this recipe are the blueberries.  Each summer, I pack away several bags of these sweet little Island-grown morsels for use in my favorite recipes like this one for Blueberry Grunt.

Blueberry Grunt

4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup white sugar

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch

2 tsp lemon juice

1 1/2 tsp grated lemon rind

1/2 cup water

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp cardamon

Topping:

2 cups flour

4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 1/2 tbsp white sugar

1 cup milk

2 1/2 tbsp cold butter

Method:

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a small bowl, mix together the sugars, cornstarch, and spices.  Stir in the grated lemon rind.  Set aside.

In saucepan, combine blueberries and the sugar mixture.  Add the lemon juice and water.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer mixture for 5-6 minutes.  Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Cut in cold butter until mixture resembles coarse oatmeal.  Add enough milk to make a soft dough mixture that will cling together.

Grease a 1 1/2 or 2-quart baking dish or 8 individual ramekins.  Spoon the blueberry mixture into baking dish(es).

 

Divide the dumpling dough into 8 portions.

Place dumplings over blueberry mixture (close together if baking in one casserole or centered if using individual dishes).

Bake in 400F oven for about 20-25 minutes or until dumplings are done and lightly golden brown on top.

Serve hot with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream (or both!).

Serves:  8

What are your favorite comfort foods?

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.

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

Blueberry Grunt
Blueberry Grunt

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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