Tag Archives: steamed mussels

An Autumnal Themed Thanksgiving Dinner

Thanksgiving Dinner
Autumnal-themed Thanksgiving Dinner

Undisputedly, a big roasted turkey is the traditional star of the Thanksgiving dinner in many North American homes.  Playing the supporting roles, of course, are all the fixins’, including the variety of vegetables and gravy. This year, however, I am deviating from the norm and putting a new twist on Thanksgiving dinner, lightening it up and sizing it down for smaller households, while still staying true to some of the elements of what one would expect to be on the Thanksgiving dinner table.  Here’s why I’ve shaken up the norm a bit.

Sizing Down and Lightening up the Thanksgiving Dinner

I sometimes hear people say they don’t want to cook a big turkey, or even a whole chicken, because perhaps they have a small household of only one, two, or three people and it’s just too much meat for them.  And, then there is the large carcass to deal with – though I am a big proponent of using it to make great homemade stock (click here for my stock recipe).  Others have indicated they don’t have a big roaster in which to roast a turkey and still some others say they don’t know how to roast a turkey to get it cooked properly.  I have heard some say that, while they like a roast turkey dinner, it can be a heavy meal with rich gravy, heavily spiced stuffing, and so forth. Others may be on a restricted diet making it a challenge to, alternatively, dine out for Thanksgiving dinner.  Whatever the reason, I have decided to create a Thanksgiving dinner menu suitable for the smaller household and those looking for lighter fare.

Now, it can be challenging to size everything down precisely to one or two servings and, to be frank, it’s not the most cost-effective or efficient approach to meal preparation for the smaller household.  I learned that many years ago and that’s when I moved to batch cooking for the freezer which allows me to have much greater meal variety than would be the case if I was to spend time in the kitchen preparing unique daily meals for one or two.  This menu, by the way, is also suitable for any autumnal dinner party and the recipes referenced are scalable to the number of servings required.


Menu Inspiration

The inspiration for the menu was drawn primarily from seasonal foods, those that would be considered to be fall flavors. While varied from the traditional Thanksgiving dinner style, I aimed to still maintain elements of a typical Thanksgiving dinner. From the gourd family comes the butternut squash for the soup.  From the garden come the fresh greens, vine-ripened tomatoes, beets, and carrots.  From the fields of a local farmer, come the potatoes.  From the cranberry bogs and high bush blueberry field come the cranberries and blueberries.  And, from a local orchard and distillery come the apples and liqueur for the dessert. In lieu of turkey, I have opted to go with chicken breasts though turkey breasts could certainly be used.  The chicken breasts are smaller to roast and plate quite attractively. The steamed mussels for an appetizer have been included because, well, it’s PEI and we love our mussels any time of the year!

The table is set – it’s time to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner!

Thanksgiving Dinner Placesetting

The Menu

Food is meant to be enjoyed and savored, not hurriedly consumed.  This menu and its serving style aim for that objective.


Island Blue Mussels steamed in Upstreet’s “Rhuby Social” beer

Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini


Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Served with a toasted baguette slice topped with cheese, bacon, and chives


Mix of Garden Greens with Vine-ripened Mini Tomatoes and Button Mushrooms

Dressed with Raspberry Vinaigrette and served from the salad urn, tableside


Roasted Chicken Breast with a dry rub of spices

Served over Sausage Bread Dressing


Petite Roasted Potato Stacks

Thinly sliced potato tossed with melted butter, herbs, and cheese then roasted

Roasted Beets and Carrots

Cranberry Blueberry Sauce


Apple-Maple Bread Pudding with Maple Sauce

Wine Pairing

   Clean Slate 2016 Riesling (Germany)


The Appetizers

It’s almost bordering on the sacrilegious if either (or both) steamed mussels and oysters are not on the menu for a gathering here in PEI!  Yes, we love our seafood!  I’ve chosen Island Blue Mussels steamed in Upstreet’s “Rhuby Social” beer (recipe here).  Steaming mussels in beer lends a wonderful flavor to the mussels.  Easy and quick to prepare, these mussels are a great start to a wonderful meal.

PEI Mussels
PEI Mussels Steamed in Rhuby Social Beer from Upstreet Craft Brewing

The second appetizer I’ve chosen is the Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini (recipe here).  These little morsels are ever-so-tasty.  This recipe is easy to reduce or increase in size, depending on the number of guests and either wheat-based or gluten-free baguettes can be used.

Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini
Savory Mushroom and Quinoa Crostini

The Soup

Our Thanksgiving dinner this year starts with Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, a stunning golden yellow soup that is smooth and luxurious and filled with the warm flavors of fall (click here for recipe). This soup is a great way to kick off an autumnal dinner. My recipe for this soup makes 8-10 servings so, if making the soup specifically for Thanksgiving dinner in a small household, the remainder can be frozen for later enjoyment.  Alternatively, the soup can be made in advance of Thanksgiving, frozen, and then the number of servings needed thawed and reheated for the dinner.  I love when I can do prep work for dinners days ahead as it relieves some of the work and stress on the day of the dinner.

Squash Soup
Classic Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Serving the soup at the table from a soup tureen adds a lovely touch to a special meal or dinner party.

Squash Soup
Classic Butternut Squash Soup

The soup tureen can also serve as a table centerpiece for the soup course.

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

The Salad

Our garden did fabulously this year.  We grow a grand selection of lettuce that usually takes us well into the fall, sometimes until late October.  Our one tomato plant with mini tomatoes has literally produced hundreds of tiny orange tomatoes this year.  It was a very prolific producer and we have been blessed to have its produce right through to Thanksgiving, even if it meant blanketing it down on frost nights in order to keep it producing.

Salad Urn

My salad bowl is a small ceramic urn-shaped planter which also serves as the table centerpiece for the salad course.  It’s a great conversation piece and it elevates the status of the salad! When using a unique vessel, like this urn, for the salad ingredients to be assembled at the table, opt for few ingredients that can easily be divided between plates. It’s not always necessary to have a multitude of ingredients in a salad, particularly if it is a starter to a meal.  In this salad, all I’ve used is a selection of lettuce, tiny tomatoes, and button mushrooms served with a simple raspberry vinaigrette. I like vinaigrettes because they allow the flavour of the vegetables to shine through as they are not masked by a heavy cream dressing.

Edible Salad Centrepiece

Chicken Breasts

Chicken breasts sometimes get a bad rap for being dry.  I think this is because they have not been properly prepared and cooked.  I always brine my chicken breasts – it makes such a huge difference in both flavor and texture and no more dried out, stringy chicken.  All I do is place the chicken breasts in a salt brine for 1½ – 2 hours, rinse them off, then pat them dry with paper towel followed by a light brushing of some olive oil and a sprinkle of selected dry spices.  Then, into my convection oven set at 400°F they go just until they test done on my trusty meat thermometer.  The high heat locks in the juices and cooks the chicken fast so it does not get a chance to dry out.  The result is perfectly cooked and juicy chicken …. every time.  The great thing about boneless skinless chicken breasts is it’s all meat and no waste and they slice beautifully for plating, sandwiches, etc.

Sliced Roasted Chicken Breast

The Dressing

For my Thanksgiving dinner, I have plated the sliced chicken over sausage bread dressing – recipe here.  This is not a heavily spiced dressing so it is in keeping with my “lighter” Thanksgiving dinner theme yet it still bows to the tradition of having stuffing/dressing as a side dish at dinner.  In fact, I will often make this recipe and freeze it for later use when I am having some kind of chicken dish for a meal.  So, this is also something that can be made ahead for this dinner and the dressing can be heated for just a few seconds in the microwave.

Stuffing Recipe
Sweet and Savory Sausage Bread Stuffing

The Potatoes

Because this meal is meant to be light, the traditional gravy is absent.  This meant I needed to come up with a potato side dish that did not need gravy.  These Roasted Potato Stacks (recipe here), are the perfect potato side dish.  These are not difficult to make and, with the butter, garlic, herbs, and cheeses, these tasty morsels are simply divine.  They bake perfectly in muffin cups and plate beautifully.  They are best served fresh from the oven.  However, they can be pre-made, roasted, and refrigerated for up to 24 hours then reheated for a few minutes in the oven.  So, again, this is a menu item that can be made in advance of the dinner.  While my published recipe makes eight potato stacks (serves four), the recipe is easily halved (or, alternatively, make the whole recipe and enjoy leftovers the following day).

Potato Stacks
Roasted Potato Stacks

The Roasted Vegetables

For my vegetable side dishes, I decided to go really local — all the way to our backyard garden!  Beets and freshly dug carrots were roasted with herbs in the oven.  I love roasted vegetables because their true flavors are evident and no nutrients or flavor are washed down the drain as can be the case with boiled vegetables.  The beets were tossed with a spritz or two of raspberry balsamic vinegar and the same of orange juice.  The key is not to add too much liquid to the roasted vegetables that would make them soupy or lose their roasted flavor.  Both the vinegar and orange juice are just meant to be flavor enhancers so very little is needed.

Thanksgiving DInner

The Condiment

For the condiment, I’m serving my Cranberry Blueberry Sauce.  This sauce is a beautiful deep burgundy-plum color and combines two complementary flavors.  The tartness of the cranberries is enhanced by the sweetness of the high bush blueberries.  Click here for my recipe.

Cranberry Blueberry Sauce

The Dessert

To bring one of the quintessential fall flavors into the menu, I am serving Apple-Maple Bread Pudding with Maple Sauce (recipe here).  Both the pudding and the sauce freeze well for later use and both can be made ahead of the dinner, thawed, and reheated for dessert.

Bread Pudding
Apple-Maple Bread Pudding

The Wine Pairing

The wine I’ve paired with this meal is Clean Slate, a 2016 Riesling from Mosel, Germany, an affordable wine that appeals to a variety of tastes.  When selecting the wine for this meal, I considered the menu items, both individually and collectively.  Thanksgiving dinner plates tend to have a variety of foods with flavors that span the spectrum from sweet (Cranberry-Blueberry Sauce) to the moist and gently spiced (Sausage Bread Dressing) to the herbed and roasted (the vegetables) to the slight saltiness (brined chicken breast).  With that variety, it can be a challenge to select one wine that will temper and balance all the flavors and cleanse and refresh the palate between bites so that the true flavors of each of the foods can be enjoyed.

A Riesling wine is a great choice because it has low alcohol content with lots of palate-refreshing acidity along with a slight touch of sweetness to balance and complement the variety of flavors.

Thanksgiving Dinner

So, whether you’re looking for inspiration for a Thanksgiving dinner with a lighter fare, one that is suitable for smaller households, or for an autumnal-themed dinner party, this menu is scalable to virtually any number, big or small. All recipes referenced can be found on My Island Bistro Kitchen’s website, a one-stop destination for recipes for a tasty fall dinner.

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Thanksgiving Dinner 2018

My Island Bistro Kitchen’s PEI Mussel Chowder

My Island Bistro Kitchen's PEI Mussel Chowder
My Island Bistro Kitchen’s PEI Mussel Chowder

Mussels are a favorite shellfish of mine and, while I love them steamed in various different broths, today I am presenting them in the form of Mussel Chowder and I’m sharing my own personal recipe. Continue reading My Island Bistro Kitchen’s PEI Mussel Chowder

Famous Island Shellfish Featured at PEI Mussels on the Hill Event

On a lovely Sunday afternoon on a hill in beautiful Clinton, PEI, the 2016 PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival came to a conclusion with a finale event featuring one of PEI’s finest shellfish – mussels.

The photo below shows an example of the mussel sock in which mussels grow.

Mussel Sock
Mussels in the Sock in Which They are Grown

According to the PEI Mussel Industry Council of PEI, the Island produces about 45 million pounds of mussels each year. This translates into approximately 80% of the entire mussel production in  Canada. So, it is only fitting that an Island culinary festival would dedicate an entire event to featuring mussels.

Clinton Hills, PEI
Clinton Hills, PEI

The Clinton Hills venue, frequently used for wedding receptions, proved to be a great location for this function which was hosted by guest celebrity chefs Anna and Michael Olson who are no strangers to the PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival. Anna and Michael have been a part of the Festival for many years and often host two to three signature events at the Festival each year.

Chef Anna Olson and Chef Michael Olson
Chefs Anna and Michael Olson

The event began with a large campfire upon which the mussels were steamed.

Steaming Mussels on an Open Fire
Steaming Mussels on an Open Fire

Yes, those tightly wrapped tinfoil packets contain mussels.

Tending the Fire

Everything always tastes better cooked over an open fire! Opening up the tinfoil packets revealed these tasty treats. Three options were available: Mussels steamed in white wine, orange juice, or a Caesar mix, all with aromatics added.

PEI Mussels
Steamed PEI Mussels

Mussels and corn on the cob are a great combo!

Mussels and Corn on the Cob
Mussels and Corn on the Cob

Chef Anna is checking out the yummy mussels.

Chef Anna Olson
Chef Anna Olson
Serving up the Steamed Mussels and Corn on the Cob
Serving up the Steamed Mussels and Corn on the Cob

Even chefs, like the rest of us foodies, just have to photograph their food before consuming it!

Chef Anna and Chef Michael Olson
Chef Anna and Chef Michael Olson

Around the campfire….

Around the Campfire
Around the Campfire

Any good party on PEI will have lively music. The strolling musicians were Mark Haines (fiddle) and Brad Fremlin (accordian).

Island Musicians Mark Haines (left) and Brad Fremlin (right)
Island Musicians Mark Haines (left) and Brad Fremlin (right)
Island Musician, Mark Haines
Island Musician, Mark Haines

After enjoying the mussels and corn by the campfire, folks moved over to the large tent just outside the event barn.

Clinton Hills, PEI
Mussels on the Hill Event at Clinton Hills, PEI (2016)

The PEI Brewing Company was serving some of their award winning beer.

PEI Beer
PEI Brewing Company Beer

Nova Scotia’s Benjamin Bridge Winery was the 2016 wine sponsor for the PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival.  They were pouring their famous Nova 7 wine. One of the great things about culinary festivals is the opportunity to discover new products. I discovered the Nova 7 wine at the PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival events in 2015 when Benjamin Bridge was also the wine sponsor.  This wine is an aromatic light-bodied  effervescent wine with a beautiful salmon or light coral color. Look for appealing aromatics with lovely floral and fruit notes in this wine. The Nova 7 is a very versatile wine, perfect for sipping or for pairing with a variety of foods, including seafood which made it a suitable accompaniment to the mussel dishes served at this event.

Nova Scotia Wine
Benjamin Bridge’s Nova 7 Wine

Making my rounds inside the tent, I started with a bowl of delectable homemade mussel chowder.

Mussel Chowder
Mussel Chowder
Mussel Chowder

This was followed by yummy mussel fritters served in slider rolls.

Serving Mussel Fritters
Serving Mussel Fritters

I had not had mussel fritters before and these were super tasty!

Mussel Fritters

Mussel Fritters in Slider Rolls
Mussel Fritters in Slider Rolls

Upstairs in the main event barn, lobster poutine was being served. This was one event where you wanted to make sure you left the diet at home!

Mussel Poutine

Anna and Michael did a demo of their favorite ways to steam mussels and adding aromatics to enhance the flavor of these tasty morsels. I like when the event also has a learning component to it.

Chefs Anna and Michael Olson at Clinton Hills, PEI (2016)
Chefs Anna and Michael Olson at Clinton Hills, PEI (2016)

Wagon rides around the farm were available throughout the afternoon. This was a rather stylish wagon ride with its benches!

Hayride at Clinton Hills

If you are a foodie, then I recommend a trip to PEI in September when the whole month is dedicated to culinary events featuring one or more of the Island’s fine foods. It’s a great way to learn about the foods of PEI, try some new foods or new and different ways to serve them, and hear some great local musicians.

To read stories I have written about other PEI Fall Flavours Culinary Festival events, follow these links:

PEI Shellfish Festival (2012)
Farm Day in the City (2012)
Savour Victoria (2012)
Toes, Taps, and Taters (2013)
Lobster Party on the Beach (2013)
Applelicious (2013)
The Great Island Grilled Cheese Challenge (2013)
Feast of the Fathers (2014)
Lamb Luau at Crowbush Cove (2014)
Feast and Frolic Dinner (PEI International Shellfish Festival) (2014)
Beef and Blues (2014)
A Taste of New Glasgow (2015)
Beef ‘n Blues (2015)
Chef on Board (2015)
Cooking with Chefs Anna & Michael Olson in Brudenell, PEI (2015)
Le Festin acadien avec homard/Acadian Feast with Lobster (2016)
The Great Big Barbeque (2016)

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PEI Fall Flavors Culinary Festival
Chefs Anna and Michael Olson at PEI’s Mussels on the Hill Culinary Event

A Prince Edward Island-Inspired Menu for Food Day Canada 2014

PEI Mussels Steamed in Beer
PEI Mussels Steamed in Beer

It’s Food Day Canada today (August 2, 2014). This is a day to celebrate and enjoy all the great food that is grown, fished, or otherwise produced in Canada. Coming from Prince Edward Island, we are truly blessed with the abundance and variety of fresh food at our disposal.

As those of you who are regular followers of my food blog know, my focus is on eating local food whenever possible and supporting local food producers, be they farmers, fishers, or other food producers. And, this I do more than one day a year.  It’s a regular occurrence in our household.

Today, I am pleased to share with you the menu and photographs of what is on my table today for Food Day Canada 2014 and where the food came from. The menu includes foods that come from the waters that surround our Island and from the rich, red soil of our land.

Food Day Canada Menu 2014


PEI Mussels steamed in beer
and dipped in melted butter
Served with Multigrain Bread


PEI Scallops pan-seared in butter
Boiled PEI potatoes
Medley of steamed yellow string beans, broccoli, and carrots


Haskap Shortcake
Whipped cream and a rich haskap sauce
sandwiched between layers of old-fashioned sponge cake
with a drizzle of haskap sauce on top

 Wine Pairing

Chardonnay Seyval Blanc, Newman Estate Winery, Gladstone, PEI


Products & Sources: Mussels – Prince Edward Aqua Farms Inc., Springbrook, PEI
Beer – Gahan’s Sir John A’s Honey Wheat Ale from the Prince Edward Island Brewing Co., Charlottetown, PEI (Update Note 2021 – this beer is expected to undergo a name change shortly)
Bread – Multigrain from the Whole Grain Bakery, Freetown, PEI
Butter – Amalgamated Dairies Limited (ADL), Summerside, PEI

I love mussels! PEI mussels are world famous and my mussels today came from Prince Edward Aqua Farms in Springbrook, on the North side of the Island.

There are many ways in which mussels can be prepared. They can be steamed in water, wine, beer, apple juice, or in just about any liquid that strikes your fancy. The key is to use just a small amount of liquid as too much liquid dilutes the flavour of the mussels. It is the steam that opens the mussel shells, not the amount of liquid used.

While I am not a beer drinker, my preferred liquid for steaming mussels is beer. Today, I am using Gahan’s Sir John A’s Honey Wheat Ale, brewed by the Prince Edward Island Brewing Co. in Charlottetown, PEI (click here to read the story I wrote on the Brewery). [2021 Update: This beer is expected to undergo a name change shortly]

While nothing other than the beer is really required for steaming the mussels, I like to add some herbs, spices, a bit of garlic, onion, carrots, and celery to the steaming liquid for additional flavour. It usually takes only about 7-10 minutes to steam a pot of mussels. The amount of liquid needed will, of course, depend on the size of the pot you are using and how many mussels you are steaming at a time. Remember to discard any shells that have not opened during the steaming process – do not pry them open. If they haven’t opened via the steaming process, they are not considered safe for consumption.

Dip the mussels in good PEI-churned butter (I’m using ADL butter today) and they are simply delicious. Some also like to use the steaming broth in which to dip bread, soaking up the flavors. My recipe for steamed mussels follows at the end of this posting.

Multigrain Bread from the Whole-Grain Bakery in Freetown, PEI
Multigrain Bread from the Whole-Grain Bakery in Freetown, PEI

The bread on the table today is a multigrain bread that has a lovely dense texture and exceptionally good flavour. It makes a fine accompaniment to the steamed mussels.

Main Course

Products and Sources: Sea Scallops, fished off East Point, PEI, sourced from MR Seafoods, Charlottetown, PEI
Potatoes – Farm of Brent Craig, Tryon, PEI
Vegetables – Jewel’s Country Market, Marshfield, PEI

Scallops have long been a favourite of mine. Today’s scallops were fished off of East Point in the Eastern end of the Island and were sourced through MR Seafoods in Charlottetown. While there are a host of ways in which sea scallops can be prepared, sometimes I like them simply pan-seared in butter which is how I am serving them today – sear 1½ – 2 minutes on each side, in a hot pan with butter, and this is a quick, easy, simple, and tasty way to prepare scallops.

Pan-searing Sea Scallops in Butter
Pan-searing Sea Scallops in Butter

Add a sprinkle of chopped fresh parsley and serve with a lemon wedge or your favourite tartar sauce, if desired.

Pan-seared PEI Scallops
Pan-seared PEI Scallops

With the early PEI potatoes now on the market, they were a logical choice to serve with the scallops. Just a slather of butter is all that is needed for these! The round white Island spuds come from the farm of Brent Craig of Tryon.

And here is the complete main course, all products of PEI.

This time of the year, there are so many fresh-from-the-garden veggies available. I chose the yellow-orange-green color scheme to add color to the plate: yellow string beans, carrots, and broccoli, which came from Jewel’s Country Market in Marshfield, PEI.


Product: Haskap berries – Farm of Lynn and Becky Townshend, Rollo Bay, PEI

For dessert, I headed east to Rollo Bay for haskap berries to make a rich and sumptuous haskap shortcake. I recently shared my recipe for this delightful dessert and you can find the recipe by clicking here.

Haskap Shortcake
Haskap Shortcake

Wine Pairing

My wine of choice for my meal is a Chardonnay that comes from Newman Estate Winery in Gladstone, near Murray River in the Eastern part of PEI. Click here to read the story I previously wrote about my visit to this winery.

It’s so easy to prepare a tasty meal when local foods are sourced. The ingredients are super fresh because they haven’t traveled many miles for many days before they reach the dinner plate.

What’s on your menu to celebrate Food Day Canada today?

Steamed Mussels – My Island Bistro Kitchen Style


1 cup Gahan’s Sir John A’s Honey Wheat Ale [2021 Update: Note that this beer is expected to undergo a branding name change shortly]
½ cup onion, chopped
2 tbsp carrots, diced
2 tbsp celery, diced + some celery leaves
½ tsp puréed garlic
⅛ tsp coriander
⅛ tsp fennel
⅛ tsp thyme
⅛ tsp basil
½ tsp parsley
1 lb PEI mussels


Assemble ingredients.

In 5-litre pot, place all ingredients, except the mussels.

Bring mixture to a boil and boil gently over medium-low heat for 4-5 minutes.

Add mussels.

Increase heat to medium. Cover. Let steam for 7-10 minutes until shells have opened.

Scoop mussels into serving bowl(s). Serve hot with melted butter and your favourite bread which may also be dipped into the steaming broth that was used to steam the mussels.

Yield: 2 appetizer-sized servings.


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