Lobster Suppers – A Time-honoured PEI Tradition

People visit Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province, for all kinds of reasons but many will tell you it’s for the beautiful beaches, stunning scenery, fine golf courses, and fabulous food – ahhhhh, yes, the food and, more specifically, the seafood.  Most people, when PEI is mentioned, will immediately say that we are known for our high-quality seafood, including mussels, oysters, and lobster.

For many years, the Island has been known for its “lobster suppers”. That is to say, they are restaurant venues that specialize in serving meals where lobster tends to be the star. As anyone who has eaten at a traditional PEI lobster supper will attest, they are the full meal deal.  For the most part, these lobster suppers are traditionally served in big community halls or large restaurant facilities.  Over the years, there have been several lobster supper enterprises come and go but, at the time of writing, two have endured for decades and they are really only about a 10-15 minute drive from each other.  With such a rich long history, I recently sat down with the general managers from both the New Glasgow Lobster Suppers and the Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers to find out how these suppers started and why they have enjoyed such enduring popularity.

New Glasgow Lobster Suppers – New Glasgow, PEI

Exterior of New Glasgow Lobster Suppers Building
New Glasgow Lobster Suppers, New Glasgow, PEI, Canada

Nestled in the heart of the rolling hills of rural New Glasgow along the scenic River Clyde and not far from North Rustico and Cavendish, the New Glasgow Lobster Suppers (NGLS) have been operating since 1958.  This makes them the longest running lobster suppers on the Island. When I asked general manager, Carl Nicholson, to explain their long success, he said it’s due to their freshness of product (lobsters are cooked daily) with all rolls, pies, and salads made daily on the premises. He also said that, since the suppers began, they have only had two managers, including himself, so there is an element of consistency in operation. With decades of experience behind them, they’ve clearly found the secret to staying in business.

How New Glasgow Lobster Suppers happened to start is, itself, an interesting story.  A group of young farmers in the area, known as the Junior Farmers Group, decided they wanted some kind of community centre.  The group of young farmers in their twenties and thirties came together and bought a small canteen from the Covehead Racetrack for $210 and moved it to New Glasgow.  In June, 1958, to pay for this building, they held a fundraising event that happened to have lobster for supper and a dance afterward.  The princely sum of $1.50 got you supper and the dance.  The building, small and primitive by any standards, had no kitchen facilities and only had make-shift tables made from saw horses with old doors on top and there were no chairs, just benches.

A kitchen and washrooms were added in 1962 and the group continued to serve one lobster supper per year until 1964 when they started serving the suppers once a week during July and August. They gradually increased service to two days a week on Wednesdays and Saturdays. By 1967, lobster suppers were served five days per week and a cook was hired. As business grew, they expanded the kitchen and hired their first manager in 1969.  As their current manager, Carl, says, “it is a true testament to sustainability [of the lobster suppers], only growing and expanding as demand grew and they were able to pay for each expansion”.

By 1972, six local couples bought out the shares of the other Junior Farmers who had been part of the initial enterprise and, in 1973, they added on a big extension to the building to accommodate the growing lobster supper demand. The original building is still within the walls of the current structure. A grand opening was held in 1974 when then-PEI Premier Alex Campbell brought along Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Margaret Trudeau who happened to be on the Island at the time.  Mrs. Trudeau cut the ribbon to officially open the newly-expanded New Glasgow Lobster Suppers.

Over the years, various changes have occurred and, since 1980, two of the original six families – the MacRaes and Nicholsons – have run the suppers, now making it a third generation run family business.

One thing that has not changed at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers is their deeply-rooted connection to the local community and their family-oriented work environment.  The operation now sees members from the third generation of families working in the restaurant. Grandchildren are now working where their grandparents got their start in the working world. A seasonal employer of over 100 people, New Glasgow has provided summer employment for many local people over its long history with many funding their education through working summers at the lobster suppers.  It is not uncommon to hear of judges, lawyers, and other professionals having had their first job washing dishes or waiting on tables at the New Glasgow Lobster Suppers.

What’s for Dinner?

Dinners are served in a large banquet style hall that has a seating capacity of 500.

Interior of New Glasgow Lobster Suppers, New Glasgow, PEI
Interior of New Glasgow Lobster Suppers in New Glasgow, PEI, Canada

Patrons order their entrée and pay for their dinners upon arrival and then are escorted to a table by a hostess.  Lobster dinners are priced based on the size of the lobster (1 lb – 4 lb lobsters are available). Tables for different sized groups are available, starting with tables for two.  Don’t expect a quiet, intimate romantic dining experience as these suppers are casual and are modeled after a church or community hall supper.

Lobster in the shell
Lobster in the shell at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers, PEI

Primarily, the number one entrée will be lobster served in the shell, hot or cold, with lots of melted butter for dipping that succulent lobster.

Dipping lobster claw in melted butter
Dipping lobster claw in melted butter at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers, PEI

However, if lobster is not your thing, a number of alternative entrée options, including chicken, steak, pasta, haddock, scallops, ham, and salmon, are available.

Bowl of seafood chowder and homemade roll at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers
Seafood Chowder from the New Glasgow Lobster Suppers in New Glasgow, PEI

All meals include appetizers of chowder or soup, steamed PEI mussels, and large puffy homemade rolls and sliced bread; salad plate (coleslaw, potato salad, and green garden salad); desserts consisting mainly of homemade pies; and non-alcoholic beverages. The facility is licenced and there are additional charges for alcoholic beverages.

Basket of homemade rolls and bread at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers
Homemade rolls and bread at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers, PEI

Dinner is a plated meal brought to the table by your server and the servers are very obliging to photograph you dressed in your plastic bib and all ready to tuck into an amazing meal. Gratuity is extra and at the patron’s discretion.

Plates of lobster and salad at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers
Plates of lobster and salads at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers in New Glasgow, PEI

Several of the restaurant’s staff have worked with the organization for years, returning year after year, a testament to how grounded New Glasgow Lobster Suppers and their staff are in the local community. At time of writing, the same baker has been making all the pies onsite at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers since 1976, often arriving at 5am.  Pastry is homemade onsite and the Suppers are well-known for their lemon pie with the mile-high meringue. It’s not uncommon for the baker to turn out 60 lemon pies on any given day….and that’s just one kind of pie available! They make a mighty fine coconut cream pie, too.

Slice of Coconut Cream Pie at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers
Coconut Cream Pie at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers

The restaurant accommodates special dietary restrictions such as gluten-free and vegan diets; however, it is always advisable to call ahead of your visit to discuss your particular dietary needs. A children’s menu is available making New Glasgow Lobster Suppers a family-friendly dining experience.

PEI has two lobster seasons with a break in between.  The first season runs from May – June and the second from August – October. To ensure a continuous supply of fresh lobster, New Glasgow Lobster Suppers has a salt-water holding tank with capacity to hold 20,000 lbs of lobster onsite at a time and is replenished throughout the season. New Glasgow Lobster Suppers buys thousands of pounds of lobster when the spring lobster season opens.  While different sizes of lobster are available, their most popular is the 1 lb lobster dinner. On average, they’ll crack open around 50,000 lbs of lobster a season.  And, of course, there are the world-famous PEI mussels that are served as an appetizer and the suppers will go through about 70,000 pounds of those in a season!

Lobster, rolls, and salad plate at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers
Lobster, rolls, and salad plate at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers

When asked what, in his opinion, sets New Glasgow Lobster Suppers apart from other similar suppers, Carl says it’s a combination of their focus on quality and freshness of food, consistency of product, and the local, friendly wait staff and table service they provide. And, he says, at the heart of it, it’s about two of the original six families working in business alongside their employees and everybody working together.  Everyone, regardless of their employment status, pitches in with the work that makes New Glasgow Lobster Suppers the experience it is to their patrons.

Salad Plate at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers
Salad Plate at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers

A visit to New Glasgow Lobster Suppers is a time-honored tradition for many Islanders and tourists alike.  Carl tells me a man was recently paying for his meal and he informed Carl that this year’s annual visit was his 40th meal at New Glasgow Lobster Suppers.  Operating seasonally from mid-May until early October, the restaurant is open seven days a week from 4pm until 8pm (8:30pm in July and August). When you go, keep an eye out for spotting celebrities.  Prime ministers, famous hockey players, and movie filmmakers, actors, and directors are known to have dined at the New Glasgow Lobster Suppers.

New Glasgow Lobster Suppers is located at 605 Route 258, in New Glasgow, PEI.  For more information, visit their website

Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers – North Rustico, PEI

Fisherman's Wharf Lobster Suppers, North Rustico, PEI
Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers, North Rustico, PEI

There is something quaint and charming about a small rural PEI town that has a working fishing harbour.  North Rustico, which also has a fine beach, has long been a treasured location for tourists, artists, and Islanders.  In close proximity to the resort municipality of Cavendish, North Rustico swells in size with visitors in the summer. In the heart of the town is a large restaurant establishment known as “Fisherman’s Wharf” that sits just on the edge of the harbour. That’s where my stop today has found me chatting with general manager, Troy Howatt, and current owner, Amy MacPherson, who along with her husband, Forbes, now owns and operates the Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers.

Preparing for Setting Day
Eve of Setting Day in the Fishing Village of North Rustico, PEI, Canada

These lobster suppers began operating in 1980 when the original owner, Albert Dow, purchased a small existing restaurant on the same location as Fisherman’s Wharf sits today.  So the story goes, Mr. Dow would see the sightseeing buses from Charlottetown pass by and wondered where they were heading and, more to the point, where they would be dining on their excursion.  It wasn’t long until those big red double-decker buses were stopping at Dow’s restaurant that began serving cafeteria-style lunches for the bus tour industry. Back in the early 1980s, the buffet lunch, including lobster, cost only $9.99.

Apart from the increase in price for the dinners, other changes have occurred at Fisherman’s Wharf over the years including an expansion of facilities to increase serving capacity. This, of course, requires a large staff which now numbers over 100 seasonal employees. The restaurant enjoys great staff loyalty as several staff members have worked at Fisherman’s Wharf for many years, including one server who has been with the restaurant since it began in 1980. Troy, himself, has worked at Fisherman’s Wharf since 1986, working his way up to become the general manager.

What’s for Dinner?

Dinners are served in a restaurant setting that has a seating capacity of 500 (two dining rooms).  As with New Glasgow Lobster Suppers, patrons order and pay for their meal before eating and are then seated by a host(ess).  The ambiance has a distinctive rustic, nautical theme in keeping with its close proximity to the harbour.  Individuals are seated at wooden tables that seat four or six.

Dining table at Fisherman's Wharf Lobster Suppers, North Rustico, PEI
Dining table at Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers, North Rustico, PEI

The suppers have maintained their self-serve buffet style that was in operation when the suppers first began serving the motor coach market which is still a major part of their clientele. It is not uncommon, as was the case during my visit, to see a large motor coach pull up to the door and unload a large group of tourists for a traditional Fisherman’s Wharf lobster supper.  When you see a block of tables with bibs on the chair backs, it’s a sign that a bus tour is imminently expected.

Lobster Bibs Awaiting Diners
Lobster Bibs Awaiting Diners at Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers, North Rustico, PEI

 

Obviously, lobster is the most popular entrée.

Lobster in the shell served with melted butter at Fisherman's Wharf Lobster Suppers
Lobster in the shell served with melted butter at Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers, North Rustico, PEI, Canada

It’s the customer’s choice to have the lobster served, in the shell, hot or cold, and, yes, there will be lots of melted butter for dipping the juicy, plump chunks of lobster.

Dipping lobster claw in melted butter
Dipping Lobster Claw in Melted Butter at Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers, North Rustico, PEI

There are plenty of alternative meal options available for those who are not lobster fans.  Steak, scallops, breaded shrimp, snow crab, haddock, and rotisserie chicken are entrée options.

Salad bar at Fisherman's Wharf Lobster Suppers
Small Segment of the 60-foot long Salad Bar at Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers in North Rustico, PEI

All meals include access to the 60-foot salad bar that, in addition to being comprised of some 30 salads, also includes seafood chowder, and mussels.

Bowl of Seafood Chowder at Fisherman's Wharf Lobster Suppers, North Rustico, PEI
Bowl of Seafood Chowder at Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers, North Rustico, PEI

Yes, those tasty PEI steamed mussels are included, too!

Steamed PEI mussels dipped in melted butter
Steamed PEI mussels dipped in melted butter at Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers

Warm homemade rolls are delivered to your table by your server who will also serve the lobster or other entrée of choice.

Basket of warm homemade rolls at Fisherman's Wharf Lobster Suppers
Basket of warm homemade rolls at Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers

Other than that, the meal is basically self-serve at your leisure.

Plate of different salads at Fisherman's Wharf Lobster Suppers
Plate of different salads at Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers

A wide variety of homemade desserts is also available and non-alcoholic beverages are included in the meal price. The facility is licenced and there are additional charges for alcoholic beverages. Gratuity is not automatically included with the meal price and is at the patron’s discretion.

Strawberry Shortcake at Fisherman's Wharf Lobster Suppers
Strawberry Shortcake at Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers in North Rustico, PEI

Fisherman’s Wharf accommodates special dietary restrictions such as gluten-free and vegan diets. To discuss specific dietary needs, it is always a good idea to call ahead of your visit. A children’s menu is available so the whole family can enjoy a meal together.

Lobsters are purchased through Island seafood wholesalers and are held until needed in the onsite lobster holding facility that is filled with sea water piped from the harbour. This allows the lobsters to maintain their fresh sea quality and taste. Various sizes of lobster are available and the most popular size is the 1½ pound lobster though they do get requests for lobsters as large as 3-4 pounds. On average, 650-750 lobsters will be cracked a day in peak tourism season and one guy cracks open every one of them, single-handedly.  I have seen him at work and those hands just fly to make short of the work!

Troy says, in his opinion, what sets Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers apart from others is their state-of-the-art kitchen and their 60-foot long salad bar which has such a huge variety, there is something for everyone.

Segment of 60-foot long salad bar at Fisherman's Wharf Lobster Suppers
Segment of 60-foot long salad bar at Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers

A visit to North Rustico would not be complete without a stop for a meal at Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers. Open daily from mid-May until early October, the restaurant serves meals from 12 noon until 8:30pm (note that hours may be reduced in the shoulder seasons). You never know who you will see at Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers. Several celebrities including those from the film industry, the hockey fame world, and politicians have been spotted dining at the restaurant.

Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers is located at 7230 Rustico Road in North Rustico, PEI. Visit their website for more information.

Tips for Dining at a PEI Lobster Supper

Dining at one of the Island’s Lobster Suppers is a unique experience.  Here are my tips for making the most of it:

      1. There is no need to dress up. These are casual dining venues. Plastic lobster bibs are available and are recommended as, even though the lobsters have been cracked open by the kitchen staff, the meat can be a bit juicy to pull out the of the shell….then there is that lovely dripping melted butter….enough said!
      2. Expect casual surroundings. You won’t be seated at tables with people you do not know but neither is it a quiet, intimate dining experience.
      3. Pace yourself and don’t over-indulge in food! This is the biggest tip of all. There is A LOT of food coming your way at an Island lobster supper. It’s easy to get carried away with the unlimited mussels, fresh rolls, and seafood chowder that start out the meal and to fill up on those.  Save room for the lobster (or alternative entrée) and the desserts.  You’ll want to sample everything.
      4. Plan to spend time at the supper and enjoy the experience. These are not fast food outlets and the meals comprise a lot of food and courses.
      5. In peak season (July and August), there may be some line-ups (especially over the 5pm – 7pm timeframe) so be patient. It gives time to work up a needed appetite for what awaits you.
      6. Don’t expect à la carte menus to be available. The meals are set menu so there is no ordering of special or particular side dishes or customizing a meal.
      7. If you have never been to a PEI lobster supper, it can be daunting when you arrive at the check-in desk and need to make a snap decision on what entrée to order or whether you want your lobster hot or cold and so forth. It’s a good idea to check out the lobster supper’s website before arrival so you have an idea of what you plan to order.
      8. While both New Glasgow Lobster Suppers and Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers can accommodate dietary restrictions, it’s always advisable to call them ahead of your visit to discuss specific dietary concerns and needs. This will help ensure a pleasant dining experience for everyone in the party.

     

    Summary

    Food at an Island lobster supper is plain, downhome hearty fare that is simply prepared.  The lobster is served straight from the shell with no additions or sauces added to it. This allows the pure authentic taste of the lobster to be enjoyed. The potato salads will be homemade and be just like most Islanders know potato salad to be and that they, themselves, make at home.

    I always recommend visitors to PEI experience an authentic and traditional lobster supper during their visit – in fact, I suggest they visit both New Glasgow Lobster Suppers and Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers.  While there are certainly similarities between them, there are some differences. The most notable is that New Glasgow Lobster Suppers offers a completely plated meal brought to your table and served to you by your server while Fisherman’s Wharf Lobster Suppers offers a 60-foot long salad-plus bar and patrons largely serve themselves with the exception of the main entrée itself. Fisherman’s Wharf serves their lobster suppers all day starting at 12 noon while New Glasgow starts their dinner service at 4:00pm.

    No matter whether you choose one or both lobster suppers, one thing is for sure, you won’t leave hungry.  Just make sure you arrive with a hearty appetite and elasticized waistbands are recommended! Then, don the plastic bib and tuck into a hearty and tasty authentic PEI lobster supper. It’s sure to be an unforgetable meal and a great memory of a PEI visit.  Once you’ve had a meal at one of our Island lobster suppers, I think it will be quite apparent why they’ve stood the test of time and have been in business for decades.

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Lobster Suppers in PEI

Rhubarb and Mango Chutney

Jars of Rhubarb and Mango Chutney
Rhubarb and Mango Chutney

This Rhubarb and Mango Chutney is a mildly spicy condiment.  Combining the tart rhubarb with the sweet fresh mango and a variety of spices produces a fabulous flavour combination that teeters between the sweet and savory.

Small bowl of Rhubarb and Mango Chutney
Rhubarb and Mango Chutney

Chutney, with origins in India, differs from a relish that tends to be sweeter. A chutney will also have a more chunky texture with pieces of fruit. Chutney tends to lean more toward the savory side of the culinary scale.

Bowl and Jars of Rhubarb and Mango Chutney
Rhubarb and Mango Chutney

A versatile condiment, chutney can be used in sandwiches either as a spread on its own or mixed with mayonnaise.  It’s a great snack or easy hors d’oeuvre when presented on a cracker with some cheese (e.g., goat cheese, Brie, or cream cheese) and some deli meat.

Cracker topped with goat cheese, deli meat, and rhubarb and mango chutney
Rhubarb and Mango Chutney tops Deli Meat and Goat Cheese on Cracker

It complements cold meats like beef, pork, and poultry and is wonderful on a charcuterie board.

Rhubarb and Mango Chutney on Charcuterie Board
Rhubarb and Mango Chutney as a Condiment on a Charcuterie and Cheese Board

This Rhubarb and Mango Chutney is also tasty when mixed with some Greek yogurt and used as a dip for fresh veggies.  I like to use it as a side to my chicken pot pie and beef pot pie and serve it as a burger condiment.  The possibilities for the use of the chutney is limited only by your imagination.

Rhubarb and Mango Chutney on Charcuterie and Cheese Board
Rhubarb and Mango Chutney on Charcuterie, Cheese, and Fruit Board

This recipe for sweet, tart, and slightly spicy Rhubarb and Mango Chutney is not difficult to make but it does take some time. A couple of stock pots as well as a hot water canner to process the jars of chutney will also be required.

Spoonful of Rhubarb and Mango Chutney
Rhubarb and Mango Chutney

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Rhubarb Mango Chutney

Ingredients:
4½ cups rhubarb (apx. 1 lb 3 oz), chopped into ¼“ pieces
½ cup red onion, finely chopped
¾ cup light brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
½ cup minus 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
½ tsp fine sea salt
1/16 tsp coriander
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp olive oil

1 mango, peeled and chopped into ¼“ pieces (apx. 1 1/3 cups)
2/3 cup golden raisins

Spice Sachet:
1 star anise
1/8 tsp mustard seed
2 whole allspice
3 whole cloves
3” piece cinnamon stick

Method:
Place rhubarb, onion, sugars, vinegar, salt, dry spices, and olive oil in medium-sized stock pot.  Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.  Make the spice sachet by combining the star anise, mustard seed, whole allspice and cloves, and cinnamon stick into center of small square of double or triple layer of cheesecloth (depending on how open the weave of the cheesecloth is).  Draw edges of cheesecloth together to make a sachet and tie with heavy thread.  Add the spice sachet to the pot.  Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add the mango and raisins and continue to simmer about 25 minutes longer, or until mixture thickens, stirring occasionally.

While the chutney is cooking, fill a large pot of water, about ¾ full.  Place 4 half-pint jars (see Note 1 below) and 1 quarter-pint jar (see Note 2 below), upright, into the water.  Ensure the jars are fully submerged, each jar filled with water, and that the water is at least an inch over the tops of the jars.  Cover, bring to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and leave the jars in the hot water while the chutney finishes cooking.

Meanwhile, fill the canner about one-third to one-half full of water. Cover and bring to a boil to have it ready for the filled jars.

When the chutney is cooked, use a jar lifter to remove the hot jars from the water.  Discard the spice sachet in the chutney. Using a glass measuring cup and a canning funnel, transfer chutney into sterilized jars, leaving about ¼” headroom in each jar.  Wipe the jar rims with a clean cloth. Seal jars with heated lids and fingertip-tightened ring bands.

Place filled jars in hot water bath wire basket, ensuring jars do not touch each other or fall over. Carefully lower basket into canner of hot water. Some empty jars may need to be added to the basket to fill up space so the filled jars do not fall over.  Let the empty jars fill with water from the canner as they are submerged. Ensure the water level is at least 1” above the tops of jars, adding more boiling water as necessary. Cover with canner lid. Increase the heat to return the water to a rolling boil then decrease the heat to just keep the water at a rolling boil but not boiling over. Process jars in the hot water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting time for altitude. Start timing the processing from the point where a full rolling boil is reached after basket of jars has been added to the canner. At the end of the processing time, turn off heat and remove canner lid. Wait until the water stops boiling (approximately 3-5 minutes) then, using a jar lifter, carefully remove the jars, one at a time, and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Listen for the “pop” or “ping” sound as the bottles seal over the next few minutes or hours. The lids of properly sealed jars will curve downward. Let jars rest, undisturbed, on wire rack for 12 hours. Store in cool, dark place. Refrigerate chutney once opened.

Yield:  Apx. 4½ cups (4 half-pint jars and 1 quarter-pint jar)

Note 1:  You may want to sterilize an additional half-pint jar to have it ready to fill in case the recipe yields more than exactly 4½ cups of chutney.  Many factors can vary the amount of chutney produced – e.g., amount of water in the rhubarb, ripeness of the mango, temperature at which the chutney was cooked, how long it was simmered, how much it was stirred during the cooking process, and how much liquid in the chutney may have evaporated, or not.

Note 2: I generally do not process the tiny quarter-pint jar in the hot water bath because it does not need the full 10 minutes that the half-pint jars require and I prefer not to take the cover off the canner to extract the small half-cup jar mid-way through the timing of the hot water bath.  Instead, I let the small jar cool at room temperature then refrigerate it and eat its contents within a day or so because it’s hard not to taste freshly-made chutney! I call this my “tasting jar”.

Rhubarb Mango Chutney

The combination of tart rhubarb and sweet mango mixed with a variety of spices results in a Rhubarb Mango Chutney that can be enjoyed as a condiment in many different ways with meat, cheese, and charcuterie boards.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Canadian
Keyword chutney, rhubarb and mango chutney
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • cups rhubarb (apx. 1 lb 3 oz), chopped into ¼“ pieces
  • ½ cup red onion, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup minus 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1/16 tsp coriander
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/8 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 mango, peeled and chopped into ¼“ pieces (apx. 1 1/3 cups)
  • 2/3 cup golden raisins
  • Spice Sachet:
  • 1 star anise
  • 1/8 tsp mustard seed
  • 2 whole allspice
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 3 ” piece cinnamon stick

Instructions

  1. Place rhubarb, onion, sugars, vinegar, salt, dry spices, and olive oil in medium-sized stock pot. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Make the spice sachet by combining the star anise, mustard seed, whole allspice and cloves, and cinnamon stick into center of small square of double or triple layer of cheesecloth (depending on how open the weave of the cheesecloth is). Draw edges of cheesecloth together to make a sachet and tie with heavy thread. Add the spice sachet to the pot. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the mango and raisins and continue to simmer about 25 minutes longer, or until mixture thickens, stirring occasionally.
  2. While the chutney is cooking, fill a large pot of water, about ¾ full. Place 4 half-pint jars (see Note 1 below) and 1 quarter-pint jar (see Note 2 below), upright, into the water. Ensure the jars are fully submerged, each jar filled with water, and that the water is at least an inch over the tops of the jars. Cover, bring to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and leave the jars in the hot water while the chutney finishes cooking.

  3. Meanwhile, fill the canner about one-third to one-half full of water. Cover and bring to a boil to have it ready for the filled jars.
  4. When the chutney is cooked, use a jar lifter to remove the hot jars from the water. Discard the spice sachet in the chutney. Using a glass measuring cup and a canning funnel, transfer chutney into sterilized jars, leaving about ¼” headroom in each jar. Wipe the jar rims with a clean cloth. Seal jars with heated lids and fingertip-tightened ring bands.
  5. Place filled jars in hot water bath wire basket, ensuring jars do not touch each other or fall over. Carefully lower basket into canner of hot water. Some empty jars may need to be added to the basket to fill up space so the filled jars do not fall over. Let the empty jars fill with water from the canner as they are submerged. Ensure the water level is at least 1” above the tops of jars, adding more boiling water as necessary. Cover with canner lid. Increase the heat to return the water to a rolling boil then decrease the heat to just keep the water at a rolling boil but not boiling over. Process jars in the hot water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting time for altitude. Start timing the processing from the point where a full rolling boil is reached after basket of jars has been added to the canner. At the end of the processing time, turn off heat and remove canner lid. Wait until the water stops boiling (approximately 3-5 minutethen, using a jar lifter, carefully remove the jars, one at a time, and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Listen for the “pop” or “ping” sound as the bottles seal over the next few minutes or hours. The lids of properly sealed jars will curve downward. Let jars rest, undisturbed, on wire rack for 12 hours. Store in cool, dark place. Refrigerate chutney once opened.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Apx. 4½ cups (4 half-pint jars and 1 quarter-pint jar)

Note 1: You may want to sterilize an additional half-pint jar to have it ready to fill in case the recipe yields more than exactly 4½ cups of chutney. Many factors can vary the amount of chutney produced – e.g., amount of water in the rhubarb, ripeness of the mango, temperature at which the chutney was cooked, how long it was simmered, how much it was stirred during the cooking process, and how much liquid in the chutney may have evaporated, or not.

Note 2: I generally do not process the tiny quarter-pint jar in the hot water bath because it does not need the full 10 minutes that the half-pint jars require and I prefer not to take the cover off the canner to extract the small half-cup jar mid-way through the timing of the hot water bath. Instead, I let the small jar cool at room temperature then refrigerate it and eat its contents within a day or so because it’s hard not to taste freshly-made chutney! I call this my “tasting jar”.

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Bowl of Rhubarb and Mango Chutney

Rhubarb Marmalade Recipe

Rhubarb Marmalade on Toast
Rhubarb Marmalade

Jamming and preserving season here in PEI starts with rhubarb, one of the first treats from the garden. The two crowns of rhubarb in our garden produce lots of rhubarb for use when it is in season and to freeze for later enjoyment.

Rhubarb Patch of Two Crowns
Rhubarb Patch of Two Crowns

One of the first things I make with rhubarb as soon as it is ready is this wonderful rhubarb marmalade I have been making for years.  The marmalade only takes five ingredients – rhubarb, granulated sugar, an orange,  half a pink grapefruit, and half of a lemon.  The color of the rhubarb marmalade is a lovely deep shade and its flavour is fresh and slightly tart.

Bowl of Rhubarb Marmalade
Rhubarb Marmalade

Tips for making rhubarb marmalade:

  • Choose rhubarb stalks that are slender as marmalade is best made with smaller pieces of rhubarb. Stalks that are a bright red color will yield a marmalade with a richer, deeper color.
  • Prepare all the fruit before beginning to make the marmalade – chop the rhubarb, prepare the citrus fruit, and measure the sugar.
  • Set out all the pots and hot water canner needed.
  • Organize the process.  Begin cooking the marmalade. While it is cooking, get the bottles sterilizing in hot water, and the water heating in the canner so that it will be ready to process the marmalade as soon as it is bottled.
  • Cook the marmalade to a sustained temperature of at least 217°F (to a maximum of 220°F) on a candy thermometer. If a candy thermometer is not available to test marmalade doneness, place a couple of freezer-safe saucers in the freezer.  This method of testing is explained in the recipe.
  • Don’t overcook the marmalade as it will become very thick and dark in color. Cooking the marmalade to 217°F on a candy thermometer will yield a more pliable spread while cooking it to a temperature of 220°F will produce a thicker marmalade.
Jar of Rhubarb Marmalade surrounded by ingredients
Rhubarb Marmalade

Serve this tasty rhubarb marmalade with biscuits, scones, toast, or crackers.  Add a dollop to Greek yogurt or custard for a tasty dessert.

Jars of Rhubarb Marmalade
Rhubarb Marmalade

You’ll find many tasty, creative ways to enjoy this special treat!

Spoonful of rhubarb marmalade
Rhubarb Marmalade

[Printable recipe follows at end of post]

Rhubarb Marmalade

Ingredients:

8 cups rhubarb, thinly sliced into pieces between 1/8’ and ¼“ thick
4¼ cups sugar
1 large orange (or 1½ small oranges)
½ pink grapefruit
½ small lemon

Method:

Wash the orange, grapefruit, and lemon well.

Peel orange, grapefruit, and lemon.  Chop the pulp, remove and discard any seeds, and place pulp in bowl.  Scrape the pith from the fruit peelings and discard.  Chop the peel into small pieces.  Set aside.

In a large pot, place the rhubarb and sugar.  Add the citrus pulp and peel. Bring to a boil over medium high temperature, stirring to prevent scorching.  Immediately lower the temperature and cook, uncovered, at a slow gentle boil until mixture thickens and reaches a sustained temperature of  217°F on a candy thermometer (see Note below for alternative testing method).  Stir mixture regularly to prevent scorching. Be patient, this can take an hour or so. The marmalade may be cooked to a temperature of 220°F but it will be a thicker marmalade and less pliable to spread than if it is cooked to 217°F.

While the marmalade is cooking, fill a large pot of water, about ¾ full.  Place 7 half-pint jars, upright, into the water.  Ensure the jars are fully submerged, each jar filled with water, and that the water is at least an inch over the tops of the jars.  Cover, bring to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and leave the jars in the hot water while the marmalade finishes cooking.

Meanwhile, fill the hot water canner about one-third to one-half full of water. Cover and bring to a boil to have it ready for the filled jars.

When the marmalade is cooked, use a jar lifter to remove the hot jars from the water.  Using a canning funnel, pour marmalade into sterilized jars, leaving about ¼” headroom in each jar.  Wipe the jar rims with a clean cloth. Seal jars with heated lids and fingertip-tightened ring bands.

Place jars in hot water bath wire basket, ensuring jars do not touch each other or fall over. Carefully lower basket into canner of hot water. Ensure the water level is at least 1” above the tops of jars, adding more boiling water as necessary. Cover with canner lid. Increase the heat to return the water to a rolling boil then decrease the heat to just keep the water at a rolling boil but not boiling over. Process half-pint jars in the hot water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting time for altitude. Start timing the processing from the point where a full rolling boil is reached after basket of jars has been added to the canner. At the end of the processing time, turn off heat and remove canner lid. Wait 4-5 minutes, until the water stops boiling then, using a jar lifter, carefully remove the jars, one at a time, and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Listen for the “pop” or “ping” sound as the bottles seal over the next few minutes or hours. The lids of properly sealed jars will curve downward. Let jars rest, undisturbed, on wire rack for 12 hours. Store in cool, dark place. Refrigerate marmalade once opened.

Yield:  Apx. 7 half-pint bottles

NOTE 1: If you don’t have a candy thermometer, place 2-3 freezer-safe saucers in freezer. To test for doneness of the marmalade, place a small amount of marmalade on chilled saucer and swirl saucer around. Let marmalade sit, untouched, for about a minute, then gently push your finger through the marmalade.  If the marmalade holds its shape (i.e., does not immediately run back together after the finger has been removed from the marmalade), it is set and ready to bottle.  If not, continue to cook mixture, repeating the “chill” test about every 3 minutes or so (always removing the pot from the heat while conducting the chill test) until the marmalade passes the “chill” test.  Do not overcook as it will result in a very thick marmalade, dark in color.

Note 2: After jars have completely cooled, if there are any on which the lids have not curved downward, refrigerate them and use within one month.

Rhubarb Marmalade

A delicious marmalade made with rhubarb and citrus undertones. Perfect on biscuits, scones, and toast.
Course Breakfast
Cuisine Canadian
Keyword rhubarb, rhubarb marmalade
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 8 cups rhubarb, thinly sliced into pieces between 1/8’ and ¼“ thick
  • cups sugar
  • 1 large orange (or 1½ small oranges)
  • ½ pink grapefruit
  • ½ small lemon

Instructions

  1. Wash the orange, grapefruit, and lemon well.
  2. Peel orange, grapefruit, and lemon. Chop the pulp, remove and discard any seeds, and place pulp in bowl. Scrape the pith from the fruit peelings and discard. Chop the peel into small pieces. Set aside.
  3. In a large pot, place the rhubarb and sugar. Add the citrus pulp and peel. Bring to a boil over medium high temperature, stirring to prevent scorching. Immediately lower the temperature and cook, uncovered, at a slow gentle boil until mixture thickens and reaches a sustained temperature of 217°F on a candy thermometer (see Note below for alternative testing method). Stir mixture regularly to prevent scorching. Be patient, this can take an hour or so. The marmalade may be cooked to a temperature of 220°F but it will be a thicker marmalade and less pliable to spread than if it is cooked to 217°F.

  4. While the marmalade is cooking, fill a large pot of water, about ¾ full. Place 7 half-pint jars, upright, into the water. Ensure the jars are fully submerged, each jar filled with water, and that the water is at least an inch over the tops of the jars. Cover, bring to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and leave the jars in the hot water while the marmalade finishes cooking.
  5. Meanwhile, fill the hot water canner about one-third to one-half full of water. Cover and bring to a boil to have it ready for the filled jars.

  6. When the marmalade is cooked, use a jar lifter to remove the hot jars from the water. Using a canning funnel, pour marmalade into sterilized jars, leaving about ¼” headroom in each jar. Wipe the jar rims with a clean cloth. Seal jars with heated lids and fingertip-tightened ring bands.
  7. Place jars in hot water bath wire basket, ensuring jars do not touch each other or fall over. Carefully lower basket into canner of hot water. Ensure the water level is at least 1” above the tops of jars, adding more boiling water as necessary. Cover with canner lid. Increase the heat to return the water to a rolling boil then decrease the heat to just keep the water at a rolling boil but not boiling over. Process half-pint jars in the hot water bath for 10 minutes, adjusting time for altitude. Start timing the processing from the point where a full rolling boil is reached after basket of jars has been added to the canner. At the end of the processing time, turn off heat and remove canner lid. Wait 4-5 minutes, until the water stops boiling then, using a jar lifter, carefully remove the jars, one at a time, and transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Listen for the “pop” or “ping” sound as the bottles seal over the next few minutes or hours. The lids of properly sealed jars will curve downward. Let jars rest, undisturbed, on wire rack for 12 hours. Store in cool, dark place. Refrigerate marmalade once opened.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Apx. 7 half-pint bottles

NOTE 1: If you don’t have a candy thermometer, place 2-3 freezer-safe saucers in freezer. To test for doneness of the marmalade, place a small amount of marmalade on chilled saucer and swirl saucer around. Let marmalade sit, untouched, for about a minute, then gently push your finger through the marmalade. If the marmalade holds its shape (i.e., does not immediately run back together after the finger has been removed from the marmalade), it is set and ready to bottle. If not, continue to cook mixture, repeating the “chill” test about every 3 minutes or so (always removing the pot from the heat while conducting the chill test) until the marmalade passes the “chill” test. Do not overcook as it will result in a very thick marmalade, dark in color.

Note 2: After jars have completely cooled, if there are any on which the lids have not curved downward, refrigerate them and use within one month.

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

Peach Marmalade
Green Tomato Marmalade

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Rhubarb Marmalade
Rhubarb Marmalade

 

Old-fashioned Stewed Rhubarb

Bowl of Stewed Rhubarb
Stewed Rhubarb

Old-fashioned stewed rhubarb is so simple to make and so tasty.  During my growing up years, stewed rhubarb was a staple in the refrigerator during rhubarb season.  My mother and grandmother both cooked the rhubarb slowly in a water and sugar mixture in the oven.  This helped to retain the shape of the rhubarb and also its lovely rosy color.  Cooking it on the stove, or in the oven at a higher temperature, would turn the rhubarb into sauce which is entirely different from this stewed rhubarb recipe.

While neither my mother or grandmother added anything to their stewed rhubarb, I add a small amount of pulp-free orange juice and a sprinkle of nutmeg which I think enhances the syrup in which the rhubarb is stewed and with which it is served.

Close-up of bowl of stewed rhubarb
Stewed Rhubarb

My grandmother would often serve this stewed rhubarb with biscuits made with homemade cream and slathered with homemade butter.  She lived on a farm so had fresh cream daily and it was used liberally.  Stewed rhubarb would often be dessert after supper.

Bowl of stewed rhubarb served with homemade biscuits and a cup of tea
Stewed Rhubarb

I freeze a lot of rhubarb for winter usage and will often have a dish of stewed rhubarb in the fridge any time over the year because it can easily be made with frozen rhubarb.

Two glass bowls of stewed rhubarb
Stewed Rhubarb

 

Made with only five basic ingredients, it doesn’t get much simpler (or more tasty) than Old-fashioned Stewed Rhubarb.

[Printable recipe follows at end of post]

Stewed Rhubarb

Ingredients:

1 lb rhubarb, chopped into ¾“ pieces (approximately 3¾ cups chopped)
¾ cup hot water
1 cup + 1 tbsp granulated sugar
1½ tbsp pulp-free orange juice
1/8 tsp nutmeg

Method:

Preheat oven to 235°F oven.

In small saucepan over medium high heat, bring the hot water and sugar to a boil then reduce heat to simmer for 4 minutes.

Place rhubarb in casserole (apx. 2-quart size).  Add the orange juice and nutmeg to the hot water and sugar mixture and pour over the rhubarb.  Cover and place in oven for approximately 55-65 minutes, or until rhubarb is fork tender.  Do not overcook or rhubarb will lose its shape and turn into sauce.

Yield:  Apx. 5-6 servings

Stewed Rhubarb

Ruby red rhubarb stewed slowed in the oven to retain its shape and color makes a wonderful light dessert, especially when served with homemade biscuits. May be made with either fresh or frozen rhubarb.
Course Dessert
Cuisine Canadian
Keyword rhubarb
Servings 6
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 1 lb rhubarb, chopped into ¾“ pieces (approximately 3¾ cups chopped)
  • ¾ cup hot water
  • 1 cup + 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • tbsp pulp-free orange juice
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 235°F oven.
  2. In small saucepan over medium high heat, bring the hot water and sugar to a boil then reduce heat to simmer for 4 minutes.
  3. Place rhubarb in casserole (apx. 2-quart size). Add the orange juice and nutmeg to the hot water and sugar mixture and pour over the rhubarb. Cover and place in oven for approximately 55-65 minutes, or until rhubarb is fork tender. Do not overcook or rhubarb will lose its shape and turn into sauce.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Apx. 5-6 servings

 

For other great rhubarb dessert recipes from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

Rhubarb Custard Torte
Rhubarb Pudding Cake
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Rhubarb Pie

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Cranberry Rhubarb Sauce

Small white bowl filled with Cranberry Rhubarb Sauce. Rolled stuffed turkey breast and stalks of rhubarb in background
Cranberry Rhubarb Sauce

It’s hard for me to imagine a roast turkey or chicken dinner without homemade cranberry sauce. Sometimes, I will make the sauce with just cranberries while other times, I will blend flavours as in the case of this Cranberry Rhubarb Sauce which combines the tart cranberries with the equally tart rhubarb. Lovely tang and extraordinarily rich color to this tasty sauce.

This Cranberry Rhubarb Sauce may be made with either fresh or frozen cranberries and rhubarb so it’s possible to make it year-round. This is a good thing because cranberries and rhubarb are not in-season locally together at the same time.

This condiment complements a roast poultry dinner very well. Try mixing it with some mayonnaise for a lovely spread on a cold chicken or turkey sandwich.

Slices of rolled stuffed turkey breast with small glass bowl of Cranberry Rhubarb Sauce
Rolled Stuffed Turkey Breast Served with Cranberry Rhubarb Sauce

I like my cranberry sauces to be very thick and not runny.  The secret to making a thick cranberry sauce is to, first, make a simple syrup of water and sugar before adding the cranberries and rhubarb. The trick to getting a thickened sauce is to stir it both while it is cooking and cooling.  Stir it plenty during the cooling process – it will appear somewhat watery when it comes off the stove but, by stirring it frequently as it cools, it will thicken well.

Bowl of Cranberry Rhubarb Sauce in foreground with Rolled Stuffed Turkey Breast and Two Stalks of Rhubarb in Background
Cranberry Rhubarb Sauce

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

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Cranberry Rhubarb Sauce

Ingredients:

2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 cup water minus 1 tablespoon

1½ cups cranberries, fresh or frozen (approximately 6 oz)
¾ cup rhubarb, fresh or frozen, chopped into ¼“ chunks (approximately 3 oz)
2 tbsp peeled apple, finely chopped
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tsp lime juice (optional)

¼ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1/16 tsp ginger
1 star anise pod (optional)

2 tsp finely grated orange rind

Method:

In medium-sized saucepan, over medium heat, bring sugars and water to boil. Boil, uncovered, for 5 minutes over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.

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

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

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

Yield: Apx. 1 2/3 cups

For other Cranberry Sauce recipes, click on the links below:

Zesty Cranberry-Orange Sauce
Cranberry Blueberry Sauce

Cranberry Rhubarb Sauce

This cranberry rhubarb sauce pairs two wonderful flavours. Perfect with a roast turkey or chicken dinner.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Canadian
Keyword cranberry rhubarb sauce, cranberry,, rhubarb
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup water minus 1 tablespoon
  • cups cranberries, fresh or frozen (approximately 6 oz)
  • ¾ cup rhubarb, fresh or frozen, chopped into ¼“ chunks (approximately 3 oz)
  • 2 tbsp peeled apple, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp lime juice (optional)
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/16 tsp ginger
  • 1 star anise pod (optional)
  • 2 tsp finely grated orange rind

Instructions

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

Recipe Notes

Yield:  Apx. 1 2/3 cups

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Bowl of Cranberry Rhubarb Sauce with Stuffed Rolled Turkey Breast in background

White bowl filled with Cranberry Rhubarb Sauce

PEI Lobster Frittata Recipe

Red baking dish filled with baked lobster frittata
PEI Oven-baked Lobster Frittata

Living in PEI, we are accustomed to high quality local seafood.  When lobster is in season, I try to make the most of it, enjoying it steamed and fresh from the shell with the tender meat dipped in melted butter.

Three steamed lobster on white tray with wedges of lemon and a small bowl of melted butter for dipping the lobster meat
Steamed Lobster in the Shell

Once I have had a couple of good “feeds” of lobster with homemade potato salad and rolls, I start using the meat as an ingredient in other recipes like this easy-to-make oven-baked Lobster Frittata.

Baked lobster frittata with a side salad and a glass of white wine
Oven-baked Lobster Frittata

Frittata is an Italian dish that is a cross between a crustless quiche and an open-faced omelette, probably leaning more toward similarity with the quiche.  The main difference between a frittata and an omelette is that, for a frittata, the filling ingredients are cooked with the egg mixture versus being added just before an omelette is folded in half to finish cooking.

Traditionally, frittatas are made on the stovetop, either completely or, sometimes, they are partially cooked on the stove and then finished in the oven.  However, it is quite acceptable to completely bake the frittata in the oven which is the method I am using for the Lobster Frittata.

Close-up of a bite of lobster frittata on a fork
Baked Lobster Frittata

There are two main tips for making this frittata.  First, use cream, blend, or whole milk but never fat-reduced milk as it makes the frittata’s custard too runny and watery. The second tip is to pre-cook the vegetables to get rid of some of their liquid and also to ensure that they are sufficiently cooked. If they were added raw with the egg custard, they would not be sufficiently cooked in the same amount of time it takes to properly bake the frittata and they would release too much liquid into the egg custard.  Even with the pre-cooking, the vegetables will still have a lot of moisture in them. For this reason, I recommend transferring them from the sauté pan to a paper-towel lined bowl to sop up the excess moisture before they are added to the egg custard mixture.

Frittata is a great brunch, lunch, dinner, or picnic fare, making it very versatile. It can be eaten hot from the oven or at room temperature. Serve with a side of toast, salad, homefries, or fresh fruit.

Baked Lobster Frittata with a side green salad
Baked Lobster Frittata

I use individual small 6″x4″ baking, or gratin, dishes for this recipe.  Oblong  baking dishes that have 1½ – 1¾ cups capacity work well for this recipe as the egg mixture will puff up somewhat and room needs to be allotted for that. If you don’t have individual baking dishes that are approximately 6”x4” inches, you could use one baking dish that would be large enough to hold the entire amount of ingredients.

Bake the frittatas on the middle rack in a preheated oven. It is important not to overbake frittata as it will become somewhat tough and leathery.  This Lobster Frittata takes between 18-22 minutes when baked in the dishes called for in the recipe.  When the frittata is perfectly baked, the eggs should be set and no longer runny.

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Oven-baked Lobster Frittata

Ingredients:

4 large eggs
2½ tbsp cream
Salt and Pepper
¼ – ½ tsp Herbes de Provence

1 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp onion, chopped
1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
5-6 slices zucchini, halved or quartered
5-6 button mushrooms, sliced
3 tbsp red bell pepper, chopped

4 oz cooked lobster, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

¼ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Method:

Place oven rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 350°F.

Heat oil in small skillet.  Sauté, over medium heat, the onions, garlic, zucchini, mushrooms, and red bell pepper for 4-6 minutes, until vegetables start to soften.  Transfer to small bowl double lined with paper towel to absorb the moisture from the sautéed vegetables.

Whisk the eggs just enough to break them up and mix the whites with the yolks.  Whisk in the cream. Season with salt and pepper and the Herbes de Provence.

Spray two 6”x4” baking dishes with cooking spray, each dish having 1½ – 1¾ cup capacity.  Divide the vegetables and lobster equally between the two dishes.  Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and first amount of cheddar cheese.  Pour egg mixture over the vegetables, lobster, and cheese, dividing equally between the two dishes.  Place on baking sheet and transfer to oven.  Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until frittatas are puffed up and just set in the center.  Add the remaining cheese for the last 2-3 minutes of baking.

Serve with a side salad, toast, fresh fruit, or homefries.

Yield: 2 servings

Oven-baked Lobster Frittata

This easy-to-make, oven-baked Lobster Frittata is perfect for brunch, lunch, dinner, or a picnic
Course Breakfast
Cuisine Italian
Keyword frittata, lobster, lobster frittata, oven-baked frittata
Servings 2
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • tbsp cream
  • Salt and Pepper
  • ¼ - ½ tsp Herbes de Provence
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp onion chopped
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 5-6 slices zucchini halved or quartered
  • 5-6 button mushrooms sliced
  • 3 tbsp red bell pepper chopped
  • 4 oz cooked lobster coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Instructions

  1. Place oven rack in center of oven. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Heat oil in small skillet. Sauté, over medium heat, the onions, garlic, zucchini, mushrooms, and red bell pepper for 4-6 minutes, until vegetables start to soften. Transfer to small bowl double lined with paper towel to absorb the moisture from the sautéed vegetables.
  3. Whisk the eggs just enough to break them up and mix the whites with the yolks. Whisk in the cream. Season with salt and pepper and the Herbes de Provence.
  4. Spray two 6”x4” baking dishes with cooking spray, each dish having 1½ - 1¾ cup capacity. Divide the vegetables and lobster equally between the two dishes. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and first amount of cheddar cheese. Pour egg mixture over the vegetables, lobster, and cheese, dividing equally between the two dishes. Place on baking sheet and transfer to oven. Bake for 18-22 minutes, or until frittatas are puffed up and just set in the center. Add the remaining cheese for the last 2-3 minutes of baking.
  5. Serve with a side salad, toast, fresh fruit, or homefries.

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Baked Lobster Frittata in red baking dish
Oven-baked Lobster Frittata
Oven-baked Lobster Frittata

 

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

Lobster Cakes
Lobster and Asparagus Crepes
Lobster Club Sandwich
Lobster Eggs Benedict

Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Bites

White pedestal dish filled with Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Bites
Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Bites

Energy bites (sometimes called energy balls, power balls, protein balls, or bliss balls) are a super tasty and convenient on-the-go snack.

My recipe for Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Bites is easy to make and requires no cooking or baking  (provided, of course, that you buy the coconut already toasted and you don’t have to turn on the oven to toast coconut) — bonus !  Made with a blend of carefully selected ingredients that pair well together, these tasty treats provide a great energy boost, particularly mid-afternoon when energy typically starts to wane for many.

These energy bites freeze well and I regularly keep them on hand in my freezer so I have them ready for a snack anytime or as a portable treat to pop into a small container for the work lunch bag.

Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Bite in small plastic container
Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Bite Ready for the Lunch Bag

Energy bites are typically comprised of four sets of ingredients:

Main bulk/filler – this is most often rolled oats which also adds fibre to the energy bites. The oats give the energy bites body and structure.

Binder – dates are often used for this purpose since their texture and consistency lend them well to binding the other ingredients together, plus they have great flavor.  Other dried fruits such as prunes, figs, or apricots, may also be used.  Nut butters (e.g., peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, or hazelnut butter) are also great binding ingredients in addition to contributing flavour.

Liquid sweetener – The two most common sticky sweeteners used are typically maple syrup and honey though others, such as agave syrup, may also be used. Because they are liquid and not granular, they provide a smooth textured natural sweetener.

Add-ins – These are limited only by your creativity and taste preferences.  Common add-ins are flax and/or chia seeds (either whole or in ground form), mini chocolate chips, cocoa, coconut, crispy rice cereal, hemp hearts, protein powder, finely ground nuts, dried fruits, spices, etc.

So, now that we have discussed the basic composition of most energy bites, let’s move on to this post’s featured recipe.  Dates are the main “binder” in these Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Bites and are best blitzed in the food processor before other ingredients are added.  Depending on the size of the food processor bowl, the dates will either form a paste-like consistency (more likely if a small food processor is used) or clump together into a ball (if a large food processor is used).  Either consistency is fine as basically the goal is to break up the dates and smooth out their texture before pulsing with the other ingredients that don’t take as long to incorporate.  A small food processor, if you have one, is great for this first step but use the larger food processor for incorporating the ingredients together. Use the pulse feature on the machine as you mix the ingredients. The goal is to incorporate them, not crush or mash all the ingredients into a smooth paste.

Three Peanut Butter Energy Bites on White Marble Server
Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Bites

If the rolled oats are particularly large, it’s a good idea to blitz them separately 2-4 times in short bursts in a food processor before beginning to make the energy bites. Be careful, though, about processing them too much as the oats will quickly turn into oat flour which is not the consistency required for these energy bites. If the oats are over-processed, it will change the consistency of the energy bites.

This recipe calls for very finely ground nuts. This means their consistency should be like nut meal, almost to the point of being powder-like.  While ground nuts can be purchased pre-packaged, I buy the nuts whole and use an electric coffee grinder I have reserved for the purpose of grinding nuts.  The coffee grinder will quickly and easily turn the nuts into the desired nut “meal” more efficiently than a regular nut grinder which will not grind the nuts nearly so fine textured.

Some ingredients need to be added by hand at the end of the mixing process.  These include the crispy rice cereal, chocolate chips, toasted coconut, and hemp hearts.  These are the more fragile of the ingredients and are intended to be left intact in the balls. Incorporating them with the food processor would be likely to break them up and lose the texture and visual appearance they provide.

Close-up of interior of Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Bite
Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Bites

The energy bites can easily be made gluten free by using gluten-free rolled oats and, of course, ensuring all other ingredients called for in the recipe are gluten free.

If the mixture seems a bit too dry to form into balls, add small amounts of water, a teaspoon or two at a time, and quickly pulse the mixture in short bursts.  Be careful, though, about adding too much water as it can make the mixture too soft and moist.  Possible causes for the mixture to be a bit dry might be dates that are dry and/or the size/quality of rolled oats used.

I recommend chilling the mixture for about 20 minutes or so in the refrigerator to make it easier to form the balls.  I am a huge promoter of using digital scales when cooking or baking. For size consistency, and as a frame of reference for these energy bites, use about 28 grams of mixture per ball.

Close-up of Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Bite
Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Bite

These energy bites can be stored for up to five days in an airtight container in the refrigerator or frozen for up to three months for longer storage.  Place the balls in single layers between sheets of wax paper in the storage container.

[Printable recipe follows at end of post]

Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Bites

Ingredients:

5 oz honey dates (pitted), coarsely chopped

¾ cup quick rolled oats (gluten-free, if required)
½ cup smooth peanut butter
2½ tbsp honey
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla
¼ cup very finely ground peanuts
1 tbsp ground chia seeds
1½ tsp vanilla whey protein powder
1/8 tsp fine sea salt

½ cup crispy rice cereal (gluten-free, if required)
½ cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
¼ cup pre-toasted coconut
3 tbsp hemp hearts

Method:

Pulse dates in food processor until they form a paste or clump into a ball.  Add the rolled oats, peanut butter, honey, coconut oil, vanilla, ground peanuts, ground chia seeds, vanilla whey protein powder, and sea salt. Pulse mixture until ingredients are completely blended.

Mix in the crispy rice cereal, semi-sweet chocolate chips, toasted coconut, and hemp hearts by hand.  If mixture seems too dry, two to three teaspoons of water may be blended into ingredients.  Place mixture in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to chill.

Roll mixture by hand into bite-sized balls.  For frame of reference, each ball should weigh approximately 28 grams.  Place balls on parchment lined baking sheet and freeze for 20-25 minutes to firmly set.  Store, in single layers separated by waxed paper, in airtight container for up to five days in the refrigerator or freeze up to three months for longer storage.

Yield:  Apx. 22 balls

Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Bites

These tasty Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Bites are filled with dates, rolled oats, peanut butter, ground nuts, toasted coconut, and chocolate chips. Makes a convenient on-the-go snack.
Course Snack
Cuisine Canadian
Keyword energy bites
Servings 22
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 5 oz honey dates pitted, coarsely chopped
  • ¾ cup quick rolled oats gluten-free, if required
  • ½ cup smooth peanut butter
  • tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil melted and cooled
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ¼ cup very finely ground peanuts
  • 1 tbsp ground chia seeds
  • tsp vanilla whey protein powder
  • 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ cup crispy rice cereal gluten-free, if required
  • ½ cup semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup pre-toasted coconut
  • 3 tbsp hemp hearts

Instructions

  1. Pulse dates in food processor until they form a paste or clump into a ball. Add the rolled oats, peanut butter, honey, coconut oil, vanilla, ground peanuts, ground chia seeds, vanilla whey protein powder, and sea salt. Pulse mixture until ingredients are completely blended.
  2. Mix in the crispy rice cereal, semi-sweet chocolate chips, toasted coconut, and hemp hearts by hand. If mixture seems too dry, two to three teaspoons of water may be blended into ingredients. Place mixture in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes to chill.
  3. Roll mixture by hand into bite-sized balls. For frame of reference, each ball should weigh approximately 28 grams. Place balls on parchment lined baking sheet and freeze for 20-25 minutes to firmly set. Store, in single layers separated by waxed paper, in airtight container for up to five days in the refrigerator or freeze up to three months for longer storage.

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Close-up photo of Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Balls on white marble server
Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Balls

 

White Pedestal Dish Filled with Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Bites
Peanut Butter Coconut Energy Bites

 

You may also enjoy this recipe from My Island Bistro Kitchen for no-bake Chocolate Almond Bliss Balls.

No-bake Chocolate Almond Bliss Balls

Small white bowl filled with several no-bake Chocolate Almond Bliss Balls sitting on gray table
No-bake Chocolate Almond Bliss Balls

Sometimes called energy balls, power balls, protein balls, or bliss balls, these trendy snacks are tasty little morsels.  The recipe I am sharing today is for No-bake Chocolate Almond Bliss Balls, so named because they are, well, blissfully divine!

Single Chocolate Almond Bliss Ball covered in toasted coconut and sitting on gray table
No-bake Chocolate Almond Bliss Ball Rolled in Crushed Toasted Coconut

These bliss balls are a great energy burst, particularly in the “slump” period of mid-afternoon when you might find yourself a bit low on energy and maybe need a little pick-me-up.  These balls go great with a cup of tea, such as Earl Grey in the afternoon, or a more robust Kenyan Tinderet if enjoying them as an after dinner treat.

These are a staple in my freezer and I will often pop one into a small container for my work lunch bag.  They are great travelers and I frequently pack some to take along on road trips.

Small white bowl filled with No-bake Chocolate Almond Bliss Balls Rolled in Hemp Hearts set against a pink and gray backdrop
No-bake Chocolate Almond Bliss Balls Rolled in Hemp Hearts

These no-bake bliss balls are not difficult to make.  Essentially, the majority of the ingredients are pulsed in a food processor with the chopped chocolate bar, hemp hearts, and toasted coconut added by hand at the end.  Pulse the dates first. Depending on the size of the food processor bowl, the dates will either form a paste-like consistency (if a small food processor is used), or clump together into a ball (if a large food processor is used).  Either consistency is fine.  If you have a mini food processor, it is great for this step but use the larger food processor for incorporating all the ingredients together. Use the pulse feature on the machine as you mix the ingredients. The idea is to incorporate them, not crush or mash all the ingredients into a paste.

I use my favorite chocolate bar for this recipe.  That would be the Toblerone bar that I first discovered many years ago in Basel, Switzerland.  With its honey and almond nougat, it blends well with the other ingredients, including the finely ground almonds, in these bliss balls.  However, other kinds of solid chocolate bars could be substituted. Chop the chocolate into small morsels.

Interior of Chocolate Almond Bliss Ball
No-bake Chocolate Almond Bliss Ball

The bliss balls can easily be made gluten free by using gluten-free rolled oats and, of course, ensuring all other ingredients called for in the recipe are gluten free.

Top-down view of bowl filled with Chocolate Almond Bliss Balls set against a medium-brown cutting board
Chocolate Almond Bliss Balls

If the mixture seems a bit too dry to form into balls, add small amounts of water, a teaspoon or two at a time, and pulse mixture.  Be careful about adding too much water as it can make the mixture too soft, moist, and “mushy”. The reasons that could cause the mixture to be a bit dry might be dates that are dry and/or the size/quality of rolled oats used.

Chilling the mixture for 15-20 minutes in the refrigerator will make it easier to form the balls.  For size consistency, and as a frame of reference for these bliss balls, use 28-30 grams of mixture per ball. The balls can be left plain or they can be rolled in hemp hearts or crushed toasted coconut.

Close-up of Chocolate Almond Bliss Ball sitting on a wooden board
No-bake Chocolate Almond Bliss Balls Rolled in Hemp Hearts

These No-bake Chocolate Almond Bliss Balls can be stored for up to five days in an airtight container in the refrigerator or frozen for longer storage.  Place the balls in single layers between sheets of wax paper in the storage container.

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

No-bake Chocolate Almond Bliss Balls

Ingredients:

4 oz honey dates (pitted), coarsely chopped (apx 12 large dates)

2/3 cup quick rolled oats (gluten-free, if required)
½ cup smooth almond butter
2½ tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp coconut oil, melted and cooled
½ tsp vanilla
½ cup finely ground almonds
3 tbsp cocoa
1 tbsp ground chia seeds
1 tbsp ground flax seeds
2 tsp vanilla whey protein powder
1/8 tsp fine sea salt

1½ oz Toblerone chocolate bar, chopped small
3 tbsp hemp hearts
1/3 cup toasted coconut

Additional hemp hearts and/or toasted coconut for rolling balls (optional)

Method:

Pulse dates in food processor until they form a paste or clump into a ball.  Add the rolled oats, almond butter, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla, ground almonds, cocoa, ground chia and flax seeds, vanilla whey protein powder, and sea salt. Pulse mixture until ingredients are completely blended.

Mix in the chopped Toblerone bar, hemp hearts, and toasted coconut by hand.  If mixture seems too dry, two to three teaspoons of water may be blended into ingredients.  Place mixture in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes to chill.

Roll mixture by hand into balls.  For frame of reference, each ball should weigh approximately 28-30 grams.  If desired, roll balls in hemp hearts or crushed toasted coconut. Place balls on parchment lined baking sheet and freeze for 20-25 minutes to firmly set.  Store, in single layers separated by waxed paper, in airtight container for up to five days in the refrigerator or freeze for longer storage.

Yield:  Apx. 20-22 balls

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No-bake Chocolate Almond Bliss Balls

These tasty No-bake Chocolate Almond Bliss Balls are the perfect pick-me-up during the mid-afternoon slump period or enjoy as an after-dinner sweet treat.
Course Snack
Keyword Bliss Balls
Servings 20
Author My Island Bistro Kitchen

Ingredients

  • 4 oz honey dates pitted, coarsely chopped (apx 12 large dates)
  • 2/3 cup quick rolled oats gluten-free, if required
  • ½ cup smooth almond butter
  • tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil melted and cooled
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup finely ground almonds
  • 3 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 tbsp ground chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 2 tsp vanilla whey protein powder
  • 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
  • oz Toblerone chocolate bar chopped small
  • 3 tbsp hemp hearts
  • 1/3 cup toasted coconut
  • Additional hemp hearts and/or toasted coconut for rolling balls optional

Instructions

  1. Pulse dates in food processor until they form a paste or clump into a ball. Add the rolled oats, almond butter, maple syrup, coconut oil, vanilla, ground almonds, cocoa, ground chia and flax seeds, vanilla whey protein powder, and sea salt. Pulse mixture until ingredients are completely blended.
  2. Mix in the chopped Toblerone bar, hemp hearts, and toasted coconut by hand. If mixture seems too dry, two to three teaspoons of water may be blended into ingredients. Place mixture in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes to chill.
  3. Roll mixture by hand into balls. For frame of reference, each ball should weigh approximately 28-30 grams. If desired, roll balls in hemp hearts or crushed toasted coconut. Place balls on parchment lined baking sheet and freeze for 20-25 minutes to firmly set. Store, in single layers separated by waxed paper, in airtight container for up to five days in the refrigerator or freeze for longer storage.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Apx. 20-22 balls

 

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Chocolate Almond Bliss Balls

 

 

Tulips and Easter Eggs Tablescape

Wooden table set with large bouquet of pink and orange tulips and Royal Albert Lavender Rose China
Tulips and Easter Eggs Tablescape

This Easter-themed tablesetting is perfect for the host or hostess who is not overly knacky with arranging flowers.  Tulips make a stunning bouquet as they come in such an array of fabulous colors. With their stately long stems, tulips practically arrange themselves!

Large glass vase filled with bright pink and orange tulips in the center of a table
Tulip Bouquet

This bouquet came from Bernadette’s Flowers in Stratford PEI and these tulips are greenhouse-grown here on the Island at Vanco Farms in Mount Albion.  You can read my story following my visit to Vanco Farms by clicking here.  While Vanco Farms, as of January 2019, no longer operate a retail outlet at their greenhouses, their wonderful tulips are available at local florist shops and supermarkets from January through to mid-spring.  They also ship off-Island as well. They are a top quality product.

Single bright pink tulip stem
PEI-grown Tulip

What makes this bouquet so easy is that, if you get tulips from a local florist shop, they will arrange the bouquet for you with some filler flowers as accents.  Basically, all you need to do is carefully remove them from their packaging and place them, already arranged, into a favorite vase as I have done here. Easy-peasy.

Bouquet of bright pink and orange tulips
Pink and Orange Tulips

Because it’s Easter, I am bringing out the good Royal Albert china for the occasion.  It’s light, bright, and airy and the deep pink in the tulips and the purple filler flowers pick up the floral colors in the Lavender Rose pattern of the dinnerware.

In this tablesetting, I have opted to use white cloth placemats and to expose the wood in my dining table.  The charger plates are a soft shade of pink-mauve, in keeping with traditional pastel Easter colors. Charger plates are one of the easiest ways to change out the look of dinnerware.  For this pattern, I have about four different colors of chargers I use and each will bring a different look to the table.

Close-up of placesetting featuring dinner plate, salad plate, and cream soup bowl. Dinnerware is white background with small pink and purple flower border. Pink napkin folded into the shape of bunny ears is placed inside the soup bowl
Lavender-Rose Pattern – Royal Albert China

 

The napkin fold I have selected for this tablesetting is the whimsical bunny ear fold.  Easy to do, this adds a touch of whimsy to each placesetting. The design also produces a small cavity in which to tuck a special little treat. These napkins have a sparkly silver thread running through them that gives understated bling to the tablescape.

Pink napkin is folded into the shape of bunny ears and placed inside a soup bowl at an Easter-themed tablescape
Bunny Ear Napkin Fold

Scatter a few Easter eggs around the centre of the table and you’re done!

Maple table is set with Royal Albert's Lavender Rose dinnerware. Centerpiece is a large bouquet of pink and orange tulips in tall glass vase
An Easter-themed Tablesetting

I hope you have enjoyed a little glimpse into my Easter-themed tablesetting.  Have a wonderful Easter!

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Easter-themed tablesetting with Royal Albert "Lavender Rose" dinnerware on pink charger plates. Napkin fold is the bunny ear fold with pink napkins. A large crystal vase of pink and orange tulips is in center of table.

For other Easter-themed tablesetting inspiration from My Island Bistro Kitchen, click on the links below:

Easter Tablesetting
A Casual Tablescape for Easter Brunch
The Bunnies Are Ready for Easter Breakfast Tablesetting
Springtime Yellow Tablescape
Tulip Time Tablescape
Peter Cottontail Tablesetting for Easter
Tulip Clusters Springtime Tablescape
Tip Toe Through the Tulips Easter Tablesetting

 

 

 

Double-crusted Chicken Pot Pies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 1 – Get Organized

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

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

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

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

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

Step 2 – Make the Filling

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

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

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

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

Step 3 – Make the Pastry

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

Here are some basic hints on successfully making pastry, regardless if you are making wheat-based or gluten-free pastry.  All ingredients, even the flour, should be super cold.  Use only enough of the water-egg-vinegar mixture that the dough will cling together.  Too much water will yield a tough crust and, as we all know, the hallmark of the best pastry is a tender and flaky texture.  Adding some vinegar to the liquid ingredients helps to tenderize the dough.  I use one part butter and one part lard in my pie pastry. Using all butter in pastry will give a wonderful flavor and a lovely tanned crust. However, it can be a bit finnicky to work with because it softens very easy and can quickly be over-blended with the flour. If overworked, a tough crust is likely. While lard is easy to work with and will give layers of flakiness in the pastry, it lacks the flavour that butter gives. I find the best combination of fats to provide flakiness, tenderness, flavour, and structure to pastry is to use one part lard and one part butter.  I coarsely chop/cube the butter and lard into the flour then take my pastry cutter and blend the fats to the consistency of large peas.  There is no need to mash it or blend it finely.  Use flour sparingly on the work surface on which the pastry is rolled out as too much flour toughens pastry. Roll the pastry to desired thickness, generally between 1/16” – 1/8” thick.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Step 4 – Assemble the Pies

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

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

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

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

Two baked Chicken Pot Pies on brown background
Chicken Pot Pies

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

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

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

[Printable recipe follows at end of post]

Double-crusted Chicken Pot Pies

 Ingredients:

1 batch pastry (recipe follows)

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

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

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

2½ cups cooked diced chicken
½ cup frozen peas

 Method:

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

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

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

Pastry

Ingredients:

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

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

Method:

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

In a measuring cup, whisk the egg and vinegar together.  Add enough cold water to measure 1 cup.  Add the egg-vinegar-water mixture to the flour, small amounts at a time, and mix with a fork.  Add only enough water that the dough clings together and can be formed into a ball.

Divide the dough into 20 equal pieces.  Form disk shapes with each piece. Wrap disks individually in plastic wrap or place, single layer, in large airtight container. Place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to chill. Remove one disk at a time from the refrigerator and roll pastry to desired thickness, generally between 1/16”and 1/8” thickness. Transfer pastry to a 4” or 5” pie plate that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray or greased.  Cut off excess dough so pastry is flush with the pie plate edge.  Place pie shell in refrigerator to keep chilled. Repeat with remaining disks.

Prepare pastry for the top crusts in the same manner as for the bottom crust.  Remove pie shells from refrigerator and equally divide cold chicken filling between the prepared cold shells. Brush outside rim edges of bottom crust pastry along pie plate edge with a bit of water to moisten. Transfer rolled-out pastry to the top of pie filling in each pie plate. Trim excess pastry flush with the pie plate edge.  Press the edge of the pastry all around the pie plate rim with tines of fork to adhere top crust to bottom crust.  Cut slits in top of pie pastry to allow steam to escape as pie bakes. For additional venting, prick each pie in several places with tines of a fork.

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

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

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

Yield:  Ten – 4 or 5-inch individual pies

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

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Double-crusted Chicken Pot Pies

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

Ingredients

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

Pastry:

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

Instructions

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

Pastry:

  1. In medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, salt, and sugar together. Cut the butter and lard into chunks and add to the flour. With a pastry cutter, cut the butter and lard into the flour until the fats resemble the size of large peas.
  2. In a measuring cup, whisk the egg and vinegar together. Add enough cold water to measure 1 cup. Add the egg-vinegar-water mixture to the flour, small amounts at a time, and mix with a fork. Add only enough water that the dough clings together and can be formed into a ball.
  3. Divide the dough into 20 equal pieces. Form disk shapes with each piece. Wrap disks individually in plastic wrap or place, single layer, in large airtight container. Place in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to chill. Remove one disk at a time from the refrigerator and roll pastry to desired thickness, generally between 1/16”and 1/8” thickness. Transfer pastry to a 4” or 5” pie plate that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray or greased. Cut off excess dough so pastry is flush with the pie plate edge. Place pie shell in refrigerator to keep chilled. Repeat with remaining disks.
  4. Prepare pastry for the top crusts in the same manner as for the bottom crust. Remove pie shells from refrigerator and equally divide cold chicken filling between the prepared cold shells. Brush outside rim edges of bottom crust pastry along pie plate edge with a bit of water to moisten. Transfer rolled-out pastry to the top of pie filling in each pie plate. Trim excess pastry flush with the pie plate edge. Press the edge of the pastry all around the pie plate rim with tines of fork to adhere top crust to bottom crust. Cut slits in top of pie pastry to allow steam to escape as pie bakes. For additional venting, prick each pie in several places with tines of a fork.
  5. For pastry egg wash, lightly beat the egg yolk with 1 tbsp water in a small bowl. With a pastry brush, lightly brush the pie with the egg wash.
  6. Place pies in refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow filling to settle and to chill pastry to reduce shrinkage while pies bake.
  7. While pies are chilling, place oven rack in lowest position in oven. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place pies on large baking sheet(s) and bake for 10 minutes then lower oven temperature to 375°F and bake for approximately 35-40 minutes or until filling is bubbling through slits in tops of pies. For unbaked frozen pies, bake at same temperatures for approximately 50-55 minutes, or until filling is bubbling through slits in tops of pies.

Recipe Notes

Yield: Ten – 4 or 5-inch individual pies

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

 

 

Gluten-free Banana Date Muffins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Printable recipe follows at end of post]

Gluten Free Banana Date Muffins

Ingredients:

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

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

¾ cup chopped dates

Method:

Preheat oven to 475°F.

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

Combine flours, zanthan gum, baking powder, soda, salt, ground flax seeds, and rolled oats together in a large bowl.  Whisk ingredients well to combine. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Set aside.

In separate medium-sized bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the brown sugar, eggs, coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla.  Stir in the mashed banana, yogurt, and milk.

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

Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling almost to the rim of each cup.  Transfer to pre-heated oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 400°F.  Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until muffins are just firm to the touch and a cake tester inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.  Do not overbake or muffins will be dry. Remove from oven and let muffins rest in pans for 5-7 minutes then gently remove from pan and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: 12 muffins

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

 

Gluten Free Banana Date Muffins

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

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 475°F.
  2. Prepare 12 muffin cups (each ½-cup capacity) by spraying each muffin cup with cooking spray or greasing individually.
  3. Combine flours, zanthan gum, baking powder, soda, salt, ground flax seeds, and rolled oats together in a large bowl. Whisk ingredients well to combine. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Set aside.
  4. In separate medium-sized bowl or large measuring cup, whisk together the brown sugar, eggs, coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla. Stir in the mashed banana, yogurt, and milk.
  5. Pour wet ingredients into well in dry ingredients. With large spoon, mix ingredients together just until dry ingredients are fully incorporated. Do not overmix. Fold in chopped dates.
  6. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling almost to the rim of each cup. Transfer to pre-heated oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 400°F. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until muffins are just firm to the touch and a cake tester inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean. Do not overbake or muffins will be dry. Remove from oven and let muffins rest in pans for 5-7 minutes then gently remove from pan and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Recipe Notes

Yield: 12 muffins

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Gluten-free Banana Date Muffins

 

 

Mouthwatering Homemade Dinner Rolls

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

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

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

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

Pan Rolls
Pan Rolls

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scalding the Milk and Preparing the Liquid Mixture

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

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

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

Yeast

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

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

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

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

Flour

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

Mixing and Kneading the Dough

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shaping the Rolls

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

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

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

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

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

Second Rising (aka the Final Proofing Stage)

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

Baking the Rolls

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

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

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

 

[Printable recipe follow at end of posting]

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Mouthwatering Dinner Rolls

Ingredients:

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

2 large eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten

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

Apx. 6⅔ – 7 cups all-purpose flour

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

Softened butter for buttering tops of rolls

Method:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yield:  Apx. 2⅓ dozen rolls

 

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

 

 

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Mouthwatering Dinner Rolls

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Recipe Notes

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

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

Homemade White Bread
Pull-apart Pan Rolls

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Mouthwatering Dinner Rolls

Creamy Scallop Carbonara Recipe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Printable recipe follows at end of post]

Creamy Scallop Carbonara

 
Ingredients:

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

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

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

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

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

1 tbsp butter

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

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

Method:

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

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

Heat oven to low “warming” temperature.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creamy Scallop Carbonara

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

Ingredients

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

Optional Garnishes:

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

Instructions

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

 

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

Plate of Carbonara with seared scallops and pea shoots

 

Gluten-free Gumdrop Cookies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tray of Gumdrop Cookies
Gluten-free Gumdrop Cookies

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Gluten-free Gumdrop Cookies

Ingredients:

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

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

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

Method:

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

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

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

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

Yield: Apx. 3 dozen

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

 

Gluten-free Gumdrop Cookies

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Recipe Notes

Yield: Apx. 3 dozen

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Classic Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Linzer Cookies
Classic Raspberry Linzer Cookies

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

Raspberry Linzer Cookies
Raspberry Linzer Cookies

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

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

Linzer Cookies
Raspberry Linzer Cookies

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

Linzer Cookies
Texture of Linzer Cookies

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

Linzer Cookies
Classic Raspberry Linzer Cookies

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

Linzer Cookies
Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Tips for Making Linzer Cookies

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

[Printable recipe follows at end of posting]

Classic Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Ingredients:

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

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

Seedless raspberry jam (1/2  – ¾ cup)

Additional powdered sugar for dusting cookies

Method:

Sift dry ingredients together.  Set aside.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yield:  Approximately 26 sandwiched cookies.

Classic Raspberry Linzer Cookies

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Recipe Notes

Yield: Approximately 26 sandwiched cookies.

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Linzer Cookies
Classic Raspberry Linzer Cookies

 

How to Make Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

Beef Bourguignon
Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

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

Braising

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choosing the Meat

Both pork and beef are used in this dish.

Pork

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

Lardons
Pork Lardons

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

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

Lardons
Pork Lardons

Beef

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

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

Beef Cheeks
Beef Cheeks

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

Beef Cheeks
Beef Cheeks cut for Beef Bourguignon

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

Searing Beef for Beef Bourguignon
Searing Beef for Beef Bourguignon

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

Searing Beef for Beef Bourguignon
Searing Beef for Beef Bourguignon

Making the Bouquet Garni

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

Bouquet Garni
Bouquet Garni

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

Preparing the Braising Liquid

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

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

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

Beef Bourguignon
Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

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

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

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

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

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

Vegetables

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

 Beef Bourguignon
Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

Serving Suggestions

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

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

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

 Beef Bourguignon
Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

 

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

Beef Bourguignon
Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

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

[Printable recipe follows at end of post]

Beef Bourguignon

Ingredients:

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

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

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

1½ tbsp brandy (or red wine)

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

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

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

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

Method:

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

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

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

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

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

Preheat oven to 275°F.

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

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

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

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

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

Yield:  Apx. 8 servings

Beef Bourguignon

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Recipe Notes

Yield: Apx. 8 servings

 

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Beef Bourguignon
Bistro Style Beef Bourguignon

 

Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

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

Chili
Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

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

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

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

Chili
Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

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

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

Chili
Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

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

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

Chili
Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

 

[Printable Recipe Follows at End of Post]

Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

Ingredients:

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

1 – 1½ tbsp oil
1 tbsp butter

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

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

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

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

Method:

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

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

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

Yield:  Approximately 6 servings

Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

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

Ingredients

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

Instructions

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

Recipe Notes

Yield: Approximately 6 servings

For my traditional Chili recipe, click here.

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Chili
Chicken and Pumpkin Chili

 

My Island Bistro Kitchen Food Blog Celebrates 7th Blogiversary

Cupcake
Blogiversary Cupcake

Seven years ago, today, I created My Island Bistro Kitchen Food Blog.  On this, my 7th Blogiversary, I am going to take this opportunity to give a shout-out to three people who were instrumental in inspiring my love of working with food and in cultivating my culinary skills.

First, my mother.  She never shooed me away when she was preparing food.  I’d see the yellow melamine bowl and Rubbermaid spatula appearing and I’d immediately find my little apron and pull a kitchen chair to the counter, not wanting to miss a minute of the fun!  Not once did my mother ever tell me to go off and play instead of standing at her elbow as she prepared food.  Rather, she’d let me stir whatever was being made and would explain the order in which the ingredients were to be added.  Once the mixture got to the point that it needed a little more muscle than I had, my mother would take over and I’d still stand by her side, watching and absorbing all the steps and learning. Sweet culinary memories.

Second, my grandmother.  She was, by no means, a fancy cook but what she prepared was mighty tasty.  She had a really large wooden pastry board that she’d heave on to the pantry table.  I loved when it was molasses or sugar cookie baking day because I always got to cut out the cookies that Gram would bake in her wood stove oven. And, when she would be making the Christmas Scotch cookies, I’d sit in her rocking chair with the big brown crockware bowl on my knee and cream her homemade butter. I still have her floral flour sifter (still works like a charm) and her small collection of cookie cutters (she would be beyond thrilled that I kept them and still prize them).  I remember well the day she coached me through making my first batch of bread at the age of 13.  She was so incredibly proud that day that I wondered how we’d ever fit this petite woman through the door!

Third, my high school home economics teacher.  Young and fresh out of university, we hit the jackpot when an enthusiastic home economics teacher arrived at our rural high school when I was in grade 9.  Super organized and always arriving at class with a solid lesson plan, she solidified my love of learning about, and preparing, foods.  I literally spent hours pouring over my class notes.  And, I still have some of the teacher’s recipes from foods we made in class!

These three people may never have realized the influence they had on my lifelong love of everything culinary but each certainly played a key role.  So, for that reason, I am acknowledging their role in how this food blogger and passionate home cook became a lifelong foodie.

Cupcakes
Blogiversary Cupcakes

 

Someone probably inspired your love of food, cooking, and/or baking.  Who was your biggest influencer or culinary mentor?

To check out my previous Blogiversary celebrations, click on the links below:

First Blogiversary
Second Blogiversary
Third Blogiversary
Fourth Blogiversary
Fifth Blogiversary
Sixth Blogiversary

Did you know you can connect with My Island Bistro Kitchen through the following social media channels? Click on the hotlinks below to join “the Bistro” followers!

Facebook
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Blogiversary Cupcake
Blogiversary Cupcake

10 Tips for Cutting Your Food Bill and Reducing Food Waste

With continuously rising food prices, many people find it necessary to cut corners on their grocery bill and that can be a challenge.  There are several ways in which I keep my food bill in check and reduce food waste.  Here are my 10 top tips:

  1. Cut Back on Eating Out

It’s easy to fall into the “convenience food” trap.  The old “I just don’t have time to prepare homemade food” trap comes with a hefty price – both in terms of money spent on food and in nutritional value.

It’s very easy to pick up a muffin and a coffee on the way to work, for example.  However, for the price (or very little more) of those two items on one day alone, an entire batch of a dozen muffins could be made and frozen, ready for the weekday lunch bag(s).

Zucchini Granola Muffins
Zucchini Granola Muffins

For a visual of how much that daily coffeeshop tea or coffee is costing, multiple it by 365 days – if a coffee/tea costs, for example,  $3.00, a significant sum of $1095.00 a year will be spent on just one take-out coffee or tea a day (and I know some folks buy more than one a day).  If you were to make your own tea or coffee, how much would it cost? How much are you shelling out for the convenience of picking up the beverage at a coffeeshop? Add to that a bakeshop or coffeeshop muffin that generally runs about the same price as the coffee and, again, basic multiplication will reveal another $1095.00 for just the daily muffins for a year.  I can make a LOT of batches of muffins for $1095.00 a year! Together, those two simple items can run you about $2200.00 a year!

Homemade Muffin and Coffee
Homemade Muffin and Coffee

Spending $7.00+ for a bowl of soup or a salad at lunchtime adds up over a week, a month, and a year.  For $7.00, a big batch of healthy basic homemade soup, for example, can be made and frozen in portion-sized containers, making the lunchtime meal more healthy and economical.

Potato Leek Soup
Potato Leek Soup

I do not eat out a lot.  I’m not against it but it is expensive and dining out frequently makes it less of a special treat. For anyone on a restrictive diet, finding a restaurant that can accommodate the diet can be a real challenge. When I do eat out, it’s usually because I am traveling or, if at home, I am choosing to go to a nice restaurant as a special treat. If you normally eat out several times a week, cut it back to, perhaps, only once a week and see the difference it will make in how much you spend on food. I never “order in” food and very rarely eat from a deli. Stopping at a supermarket deli on the way home from work is a temptation to scoot around the store and “pick up just a few items” while you are there.  Suddenly, the supper stop just cost $60 instead of $15.

If you can afford these conveniences, great.  However, if you need to cut your food expenditures, this might be a good place to start making adjustments. Making your own food/beverages is both cost-effective and healthier.

  1. Make a Budget

Grocery Budgeting
Grocery Budgeting

Make a realistic budget for food, based on what you really need.  Set aside that money from your income and stick to the budget.  If you only allot so much for groceries, it will force you to shop for good bargains and to only buy what you need, not what you see and are enticed by, that if truth be told, you probably really don’t need. I sometimes see shoppers using calculators as they grocery shop.  This is a great idea! If you only have so much money to spend, you’ll immediately see where you are with your budget as you select items from the grocery shelves and deduct their cost from your budget.  If you start to see you’re over budget, take a look through the grocery cart to see if there are any non-essentials that could perhaps return to the grocery shelf.

Grocery Shopping
Grocery Shopping

Keep track of what you buy and are spending on groceries.  A bit tedious but, if you need to figure out where your food dollars are going, keep a record for a few months recording what you buy. Review it to see if there are non-essential items creeping into the grocery cart that could perhaps be eliminated from future grocery orders.  If you are, for example, buying big name brand products to be used as ingredients for a casserole, could the dish be made with less pricey items such as store-brand ingredients?  Do you really need the frozen entrée dinners or could you prepare healthy homemade meals? Do you need to pay for cheese already grated or could you buy a block of cheese on sale and grate it yourself? Do you really need to buy a bottle of salad dressing or could you make a simple healthy vinaigrette from ingredients already in your pantry? Once you get a clear picture of exactly what you are buying, you will likely identify items that can be eliminated or exchanged for more economically-priced substitutes.

  1. Engage in Meal Planning

Roast Turkey
Roast Turkey

I’ve written about the merits of meal planning before.  Make a list of the foods/meals your family likes to eat.  Plan for leftovers.  For example, if you are cooking a turkey dinner on the weekend, know ahead of time what you will use the leftover meat for so that you can extend its use.

Turkey Chowder
Homemade Turkey Chowder

Transforming the meat into other dishes will generate more servings than simply plating the leftover meat. For example, you might make a turkey chowder that will yield several servings. You might substitute the turkey for chicken in creamed chicken and get a significant number of servings. Perhaps you’ll make a chicken chow mein casserole that will give several dinner servings.

Chicken Chow Mein Casserole

Save the turkey carcass and make stock that can be used as the base in soups and other dishes.  Extend that turkey to get as much use out of it as you can.

Homemade Turkey Stock
Homemade Turkey Stock

The homemade turkey stock makes a wonderful base for turkey vegetable soup in which some of the leftover turkey meat can be used.

Turkey Soup
Turkey Vegetable Soup

If you are having a boiled ham dinner, save the broth and use some of the meat to make a tasty ham and lentil soup that will yield many servings.

Ham and Lentil Soup
Ham and Lentil Soup

Or, make a ham-based casserole that will generate several servings. All of these items can be frozen in whatever servings sizes you need for your family to have on hand for weeknight dinners.

Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole
Hawaiian Fiesta Casserole

By careful planning, you’ll be amazed at how many more meals you can generate from the leftovers of just one food item.

Try to make recipes that will give at least two nights’ meals.  For example, if you are making scalloped potatoes to go with leftover ham, double the recipe so you will have the side dish prepped for another meal.  Many dishes, like scalloped potatoes actually, in my opinion, improve their flavour over a day or two.

Scalloped Potatoes
Creamy Scalloped Potatoes

The same principle of extending food usage holds true with foods like chicken breasts, for example.  To serve individual chicken breasts, it’s expensive.  However, if they are bought at a good price, they are golden for meal extension.  One 7 – 8oz boneless chicken breast will yield two to three sandwiches much more economically than buying sliced processed chicken at the deli.

Turkey, Pear, Brie, and Cranberry Sandwich
Turkey, Pear, Brie, and Cranberry Sandwich

An 8 oz chicken breast will generally yield about 1 cup, or slightly more, of diced chicken which can be used in casseroles or creamed chicken that will yield far more servings than simply putting a single full chicken breast on a plate with vegetables for just one serving at one meal.

Creamed Chicken
Chicken and Mushroom Vol-au-Vent

When I know I need to prepare some make-ahead meals that will require a lot of chicken or turkey (I use them interchangeably in recipes), I have my recipes planned and I watch for turkeys on sale. I don’t go into a store and, unexpectedly, see turkeys on sale and pick them up to put in the freezer unless I know I am going to use them relatively soon.  They are big to store and take up a lot of my valuable freezer space.

I always have a plan for recipes I can make if I can get a good deal on the main ingredient like meat, for example.  If I’m shopping and I know I want to make, say, Irish Stew soon (or when I can get the beef on sale), I will check the meat section to see if they have any best-before today/tomorrow sales. Sometimes, good cuts of meat will be reduced by 25% or even 50% if it has same day, or next day, best-before date.  There is nothing wrong with the meat and, if you can use it or make it into a recipe on the same day as purchase, it’s a great saving. I keep a list of ingredients of my most common make-ahead recipes on my phone so, if I can get a good deal on the meat, for example, I know what other ingredients I need to pick up at the same time to make the dish.

Irish Stew
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Irish Stew

If you plan your meals out, you’ll be less likely to head to the deli, take-out, or restaurant for meals. Careful meal planning is a great way to stretch food ingredients out into more servings and save money.

  1. Shop with a Grocery List and Only Buy What’s on the List

Grocery List