Chili After the Sleigh Ride

Sleight Ride at Potts Farm, Bonshaw, PEI
Sleigh Ride at Potts Farm, Bonshaw, PEI

Yes, it can be chilly after a sleigh ride and there is nothing better to warm up with than a bowl of hot, homemade Chili Con Carne afterward!  Nothing stirs up a great appetite better than lots of fresh country air!

Homemade Chili
Homemade Chili

PEI has seen its fair share (well, some might say, more than our fair share) of snow this winter.  While, for some of us, the snow means work shoveling and challenges getting around and planning for events, for others it means business.

Waiting Patiently for Passengers to Load the Sleigh

There are a number of farms on the Island that offer sleigh rides throughout the winter months.  Thanks to Mother Nature sending lots of snow to the Island, this year has been exceptionally good for the sleigh ride business.

The photos of the sleigh ride that appear in this posting were all taken at Potts Farm in Bonshaw, on the South side of PEI. Their sleigh rides take you through fabulous trails of the woodlands of their farm.

Before we headed out to Potts Farm, I made this big pot of my favorite chili to have ready when we got home.


A chili con carne meal is very easy to prepare because it, essentially, is a meal in one pot.  One of the things I like about chili is that it can be adapted according to ones likes and tastes.  For example, if you don’t like green pepper, simply leave it out.  To achieve a mild or spicy chili according to your taste preference, adjust the amount of chili powder and garlic added.  I like my chili mild-flavored and full-bodied (as opposed to “runny”), meaning I like to add lots of ingredients like onions, celery, green pepper, fresh mushrooms, canned tomatoes, and kidney beans so that it is a nice, thick, chili but still has some juice to it.  I also like lots of tomato flavor so, in addition to the canned tomatoes, I add both a can of tomato soup and one of tomato paste.  Once all the chopping of veggies is done and the cans opened, it’s pretty much just a matter of combining them all in a soup pot and letting them simmer for a good hour or more to allow the flavors to mix and mingle.

Chili freezes well and I freeze it in individual, portion-sized containers to have ready for quick packing of the lunch bag on those weekday mornings when time is always at a premium.  Add a crusty roll, bread, or biscuits, and it makes a substantial tasty and filling lunch.

My recipe for chili follows.  My featured Island product in this recipe is the ground beef which I purchased at KJL Select Meats butcher shop that is co-located with Riverview Country Market in Charlottetown, PEI.  If you are on PEI and have not yet had a chance to visit this butcher shop, I would encourage you to do so.  They have great Island meat available.

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s Chili Con Carne

2 tbsp oil

1 cup onion, chopped
½ cup green pepper, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1½ lb lean or extra-lean ground beef
1 – 28 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
2 – 14 oz. cans kidney beans, undrained
1 – 10 oz. can tomato soup
1 – 5½ oz. can tomato paste
Pinch cloves
Pinch pepper
1 – 2 tsp chili powder, to taste
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp liquid beef bouillon
1 bayleaf
4 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced


Assemble ingredients.

Ingredients for Chili
Ingredients for Chili

In large pot, heat oil.  Add onion, green pepper, celery, and minced garlic clove.

Quickly sauté over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.

Add ground beef and cook until browned.

Add remaining ingredients (including the canned tomatoes, kidney beans, tomato soup, and tomato paste and seasonings) except the mushrooms which will be added later.

Adding the Seasonings

Bring ingredients just to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to simmer.  Cover and slowly cook the chili for about 30 minutes, then add and stir in the sliced mushrooms.

Adding Mushrooms
Adding Mushrooms

Cover and simmer for another 30-40 minutes.  Serve hot with French bread, crusty rolls, or homemade biscuits.  If desired, garnish each serving with a dollop of sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, and/or sliced green onions.

Yield:  8-10 servings


Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.

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

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Chili Con Carne

My Island Bistro Kitchen Food Blog Featured in “Eat In Eat Out” Magazine

I am thrilled to be one of the featured food bloggers in the Winter 2014 issue of “Eat In Eat Out” magazine.  You can read the blog profile and get my recipe for Lobster Cakes through the following link and by going to pages 58-59: .   You can also click on the “Eat In Eat Out” badge on the right-hand side of this page which will take you to the online magazine. 


Meatloaf Monday!

Still continuing on with my “comfort food” theme in January, today’s dinner consists of old-fashioned meatloaf with fluffy riced potatoes and veggies.  Meatloaf is a great way to extend ground meat and also to give it a boost of flavour.

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

Meatloaf is usually made with ground beef although other ground meats, such as poultry, pork, or lamb, may also be used.  What gives it its name is obvious – it is meat that is shaped into a loaf pan.  The loaf shape makes it easy to get really nice, neat slices of the loaf for plating.  While meatloaf is generally baked in the regular oven, there are recipes for meatloaf prepared in slow cookers.

The ingredients in meatloaf can be very basic and simple or they can be relatively sophisticated.  My recipe is somewhere in between.  In addition to the meat, meatloaf will have one or more binding agents such as eggs, breadcrumbs, rolled oats, and/or graham wafer crumbs.  The trick to making a meatloaf really tasty is to add some good seasonings and a tasty sauce on top.

Traditionally, meatloaf is served with mashed potatoes and a favorite vegetable or two.  I find various ways of presenting potatoes work well with meatloaf — baked potatoes or scalloped potatoes, for example.  In the photos in this posting you will see that I used riced potatoes.  Are you familiar with a potato ricer?  It looks like this:

Potato Ricer
Potato Ricer

Seriously, this makes the fluffiest potatoes.  The potato ricer operates on the same premise as a garlic press.  Simply place hot cooked potatoes into the perforated basket of the ricer.  The top handle of the ricer is fitted with a flat metal plate.  Pressing the two handles of the ricer together forces the flat metal plate to put pressure on the potatoes, forcing the potatoes through the tiny holes in the ricer.  When the potatoes are pressed through a potato ricer, this is what they look like:

Oh, and of course, we can’t leave out the mustard pickles!  The sharpness of the pickle flavour compliments meatloaf particularly well.

Here is the recipe for my meatloaf.  My featured Island product in today’s recipe is Island beef from KJL Select Meats butcher shop co-located with Riverview Country Market in Charlottetown, PEI.



1½ lb lean or extra-lean ground beef
2-3 tbsp grated onion
2 tsp prepared mustard
½ can tomato soup
⅓ cup milk
2 eggs
2 tbsp dry onion soup mix
½ cup graham wafer crumbs
½ cup fine bread crumbs
¼ tsp garlic powder
Salt and pepper, to taste


½ can tomato soup
1½ tbsp prepared mustard
1½ tbsp brown sugar
½ tbsp molasses
1½ tbsp balsamic vinegar

Assemble ingredients.

Meatloaf Ingredients
Meatloaf Ingredients

Preheat oven to 350º.

Line 9”x5” loaf pan with tin foil.  Grease or spray with cooking oil.  Lining the pan with foil makes it easier to remove the meatloaf and slice it.  It also makes clean up a breeze.

In large bowl, combine the first 12 ingredients and mix well.

Mixing ground beef, grated onion, mustard, and tomato soup
Mixing ground beef, grated onion, mustard, and tomato soup
Adding milk, eggs, dry onion soup mix, and graham cracker crumbs
Adding milk, eggs, dry onion soup mix, and graham cracker crumbs
Adding bread crumbs, garlic powder, salt, and pepper
Adding bread crumbs, garlic powder, salt, and pepper

Mix thoroughly.

Mixing Meatloaf Ingredients
Mixing Meatloaf Ingredients

Press meat mixture into prepared loaf pan.

Shaping the Meatloaf
Shaping the Meatloaf

Bake for one-half hour before adding sauce to top of meatloaf.

Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by mixing all 5 ingredients together.  Stir until well-combined.

Sauce for Meatloaf
Sauce for Meatloaf

After one-half hour, remove meatloaf from oven and spread sauce over meatloaf.  (I am not sure why the sauce differs in color in each of the photographs below but the color of it spread over the entire loaf in the bottom right-hand photo is the true color.)

Spreading Sauce on Meatloaf
Spreading Sauce on Meatloaf

Return loaf to oven and bake for 1 additional hour.

Baked Meatloaf
Baked Meatloaf

Let meatloaf rest in pan on cooling rack for at least 15-20 minutes or more before removing and slicing.  If you slice it when it is too hot, the slices tend to break apart.

Serve warm with your favorite potatoes and side vegetable(s).

This meatloaf freezes very well and is a staple in my freezer.  To reheat, remove meatloaf slices from freezer and allow to thaw.  Re-heat in covered casserole in microwave for a few seconds per slice.

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Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.

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

My Island Bistro Kitchen Celebrates 2nd Anniversary!

Today marks my second anniversary of food blogging!  To celebrate, let’s have cupcakes and tea!


I can’t believe that two years has flown by so fast!  Lots of interviews, stories, and recipes have found their way on to my blog over the past two years.

Since the core focus of my food blog is on local products, I don’t often post photographs of my cake and cupcake decorating activities.  However, since this is an anniversary, I thought some decorated cupcakes would be suitable.

Of course, I chose some beautiful rose-colored tulips from Vanco Farms in Mount Albion to mark the occasion.  Aren’t they stunning!  Grown in hothouses right here on PEI.

Cupcakes lend themselves to so many options in decorating.  These miniature cakes can be dressed in cupcake wrappers as I have done with these.

I handmade each of the flowers and leaves appearing on the cupcakes.  While I most often work with fondant, these flowers are made with royal icing.

After all the holiday reds and greens from the Christmas season, I must admit it was kind of nice to see a color pallette change with the pinks and rose shades.

Part of my pink collection of teacups blended right in.

I love china teacups and saucers and like to find opportunities to use them.

I think it’s true.  If you choose items in your favorite color(s), you will find everything will blend together.

Who can resist these delicate cupcakes decorated with apple blossoms, lilies, and butterflies!  Makes you think spring really will come, doesn’t it!

Even though they are pretty and decorative, they were made for eating!

I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse into the anniversary party celebrating my second year of blogging.

I do want to thank those who were willing to be part of my food blog by being interviewed about their product(s) and allowing me to tell their story.  PEI is Canada’s smallest province but we have fine food and beverage producers on this Island who are doing remarkable things with food and beverages.  Thank you also to those who have taken the time to visit my blog and read the stories and recipes I have shared.  I hope it has given you a glimpse into the food scene on PEI.

I have a great line-up of stories planned for 2014.  I hope you will come back to my blog and visit me often.

I will be joining Tea Time Tuesday’s 4th Anniversary Party at Rose Chintz Cottage on Tuesday, January 21, 2014.

I have an active presence on Facebook and you can find me there at My Island Bistro Kitchen.  You may also wish to follow me on twitter @PEIBistro, on Pinterest at “Island Bistro Kitchen”, and on Instagram at “PEIBistro”.

Homemade White Bread

Homemade White Bread
Homemade White Bread

I love making bread from scratch.  I like working and kneading the dough, the smell of the dough as it rises, and especially as it bakes.  No commercial potpourri could ever duplicate the wonderful scent of homemade bread baking in the oven!  It just permeates the whole house and whets the appetite.  We do have an electric bread machine in the family but it’s not the same.  I find bread made in the machine is not too bad on the day it is made but, after that, I don’t care for it so much, finding it to be somewhat tough.  My preference is to make bread the old-fashioned, traditional way.

I first made bread when I was about 15.  Under the supervision of my grandmother, I produced my first batch of bread on a cold Saturday in winter.  To say that Gram was somewhat proud that day would be a huge understatement!  I grew up with homemade bread regularly being made by both my grandmother and mother so it comes rather naturally to me to make yeast breads and rolls.  They are not hard to make but there is a technique to them and they are somewhat time-consuming as the process is ongoing for a good part of a day.  Nevertheless the end result is so worth the time and effort.

Today, I am sharing my recipe for white bread along with the technique I use to make it.  I do have some tips to help achieve success in bread making.  First, the temperature of the liquids for the bread is super important.  For example, the temperature of the water for the yeast to raise should be lukewarm, generally around the 100°F point.  Any cooler, and the yeast may not rise; any hotter, and the yeast will be killed off.  Unless you are a very experienced bread maker who, from years of experience and by instinct, can judge the liquid temperature for yeast, I recommend using a candy/food thermometer to get the temperature of the water just right.  A small amount of sugar has to be added to the warm water in order to “feed” the yeast and encourage it to grow.

Some say, with today’s pasteurized milk, there is no need to scald the milk anymore.  I do still scald it because I think it provides a nice warm environment in which to place the risen yeast and it is not such a shock for the warm yeast as if it was to be mixed with cold milk.  Again, I recommend using a candy thermometer when scalding the milk to get it to the right temperature.  As well, it is important to let the scalded milk mixture cool down to about 100°F as well; otherwise, if it is too hot when the yeast is poured into it, it may kill off the yeast and the bread won’t rise properly.

You’ll find that, with my recipe, I use my Kitchen Aid mixer fitted with the dough hook to help get the dough started and to incorporate some of the flour into the dough.  I find this makes for a nice textured bread (not to mention, it takes less muscle).  Once enough flour has been added that the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl as the dough hook moves around the bowl, remove the bowl from the mixer and turn the dough out onto a floured surface and start working in the remaining flour.  Only add as much flour to the dough as is necessary to create a smooth and elastic dough.

As for the shape of the loaves, there are a couple of options.  One is make two equally-sized balls and place them in the pan.  This will generate the shape in the top photo below.  The other is to shape the dough into an oval shape.  This will achieve a shape like the loaf in the bottom photo below and it is commonly referred to as the sandwich loaf because, mostly, the slices will all be about the same height.  This is in contrast to the two-part loaf where slices in the middle of the loaf where the two pieces are joined will be shorter.  So, the shape of the loaf is a matter of preference and is largely determined by what you are going to use the bread for.

Some bakers place the dough in the oven with the door shut and oven light on to help it rise.  My preference, however, is to create a nice, cozy little spot for the bread to rise.  I start with a heating pad turned on the lowest setting.  I place a lightweight blanket on top of the heating pad and then place the bowl with the dough in it on top of that.  I fold the blanket over and around the bowl to create a snuggly warm, draught-free spot for the bread to rise.  My heating pad’s lowest setting is barely warm but it does provide a consistent temperature for the bread to rise.  Don’t use higher settings on the heating pad as it may cause the bread to start to ‘cook’ and could interfere with the natural rising process.

Be patient when kneading the dough – it will take, on average, between 8 and 10 minutes.

White Bread

2 cups scalded milk

3 tbsp butter or shortening

½ tbsp salt

3 tbsp sugar


½ cup warm water

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp dry yeast


4½ – 5 cups flour


In medium-sized saucepan, scald milk.  Remove from heat.  Add butter, sugar, and salt.  Stir until butter is melted. Let cool to 100°F.

Heat ½ cup water to 100°F point.  Stir in 1 tsp sugar.  Sprinkle yeast granules over the water and quickly stir them gently into the water.  Let stand, undisturbed, for about 10 minutes.  Stir down the yeast mixture.  Transfer to large bowl of stand mixer fitted with dough hook.

Add cooled milk mixture to yeast in bowl.  Beat on low to incorporate ingredients then increase mixer speed to high and beat until mixture is smooth.  Slowly add in flour, one cup at a time.  Add flour until the mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

Turn dough on to floured surface and mix in enough remaining flour to make a smooth, elastic dough.  Knead 8-10 minutes until dough becomes smooth and very pliable and elastic.

Transfer dough to a large greased bowl.  Place a small amount of oil on hands and lightly grease the top and sides of the dough. Cover bowl with plastic wrap.

Place bowl in warm area, covered with a towel or light blanket.  Let rise until double in bulk, about 1½ hours or so.

Punch down dough.

Divide dough into two equal portions and shape into loaves.  Place in greased 9”x5” loaf pans.  Cover with tea towel and place in warm area to rise again for between 45 and 60 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Bake bread for 30-35 minutes until nicely browned on top and loaves sound hollow when tapped.  Immediately transfer bread from pans to wire racks to cool.  Grease tops of hot bread with butter, if desired.

Yield:  2 loaves

Homemade Bread with Strawberry Jam
Homemade Bread with Strawberry Jam


This blog entry is part of the Canadian Food Experience Project which began on June 7, 2013.  This month’s theme is a Canadian resolution.  My resolution for 2014 is to continue to feature locally grown and produced food in the Maritimes and on PEI, in particular, and profile the producers behind the food production.  I also resolve to continue to use local/regional foods as often as possible in the recipes I create and share on my blog.  As we project participants share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice.

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Homemade White Bread

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.

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

Blueberry Grunt

Blueberry Grunt

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

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

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

Baked Blueberry Grunt

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

Blueberry Grunt

4 cups blueberries, fresh or frozen

1/2 cup white sugar

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp + 1 tsp cornstarch

2 tsp lemon juice

1 1/2 tsp grated lemon rind

1/2 cup water

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/8 tsp cardamon


2 cups flour

4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

2 1/2 tbsp white sugar

1 cup milk

2 1/2 tbsp cold butter


Preheat oven to 400F.

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

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

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

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


Divide the dumpling dough into 8 portions.

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

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

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

Serves:  8

What are your favorite comfort foods?

Thank you for visiting “the Bistro” today.

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

Blueberry Grunt
Blueberry Grunt