Portobello & Potato Gratin

The classic, humble gratin with its thick, crispy bubbling crust, has been defined and redefined over the years. Whether its base is potatoes or eggplant, fish or shellfish, pasta or meat, whether it is a main course or a dessert, the gratin seems to find its way to our dinner tables.

The difference between au gratin and gratin is that potatoes au gratin are a side dish made with thinly-sliced layers of cheesy potatoes. ‘Gratin’ is the culinary technique of baking or broiling an ingredient topped with grated cheese and breadcrumbs to create a crispy crust.

The word gratin derives from the French word grater, meaning ‘to grate‘. You would think that gratin refers to grated cheese, but this is not what the word originally referred to. Instead, it meant something more like ‘scrapings’. This referred to the browned, crusty material that forms on the bottoms and perhaps to the act of scraping loose these crusty bits and stirring them back into the dish during cooking. It now tends to refer to the browned crust that forms on the top of a baked dish, whether this crust forms by itself or is speeded up by placing the dish under a broiler.

Since Brion & I are both mushroom lovers, portobello & potato gratin certainly works for us.

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Portobello & Potato Gratin
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Instructions
  1. Cook potatoes & mash, adding enough milk just to make creamy. In an oblong casserole dish, spread some potatoes on the bottom & up the sides.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 F.
  3. Clean & slice Portobello mushrooms into about 3 slices each. Toss cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, salt & pepper. In the center of the casserole dish, layer the Portobello rounds & cheese mixture making 3 layers.
  4. Drizzle the mushrooms with 3 Tbsp water, cover with foil & bake 35 minutes. Uncover & bake 8 minutes more. Remove from oven & sprinkle with sliced green onions. Serve.

Spiced Rhubarb & Orange Cakes

Having frozen rhubarb to bake into a spiced rhubarb & orange cake in the middle of winter is a treat! Rhubarb is treasured by many simply for its sophisticated flavor. Those who love rhubarb, value its tart pungency, which more often than not is mellowed with sugar and made aromatic with vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom or orange rind.

Sweets are the staple at the end of a meal; the luring incentive for the kids to eat their vegetables, the weakness for many dieters, and the go-to fix for those with sugar addictions.

Hot or cold, a simple mini dessert can turn an average meal into a memorable event. Rhubarb and orange is a much-loved flavor combination, making this recipe a perfect winter dessert. 

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Spiced Rhubarb & Orange Pudding
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Instructions
  1. Place orange in a deep saucepan, cover with water. Place saucepan over high heat & bring to a boil. Place a lid on it & reduce heat to low. Simmer until the orange is very tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Drain, quarter & set aside to cool completely.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly butter six-1 cup ovenproof baking dishes.
  3. Place rhubarb, brown sugar, spices, vanilla & water in a heavy based saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer & cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-6 minutes until rhubarb thickens. Remove from heat & set aside.
  4. Place cooled orange quarters with the skin on into a food processor & puree until smooth. Add flour, butter, buttermilk, sugar & eggs & process until smooth.
  5. Divide batter among prepared baking dishes. Place on a baking tray & bake for 40 minutes or until tops are golden.
  6. Serve warm topped with spiced rhubarb & whip cream.

Barley Flour Multigrain Scones

It’s a wonderful thing when you find ingredients that truly marry well together. Like a good relationship this melding of flavors is a partnership of sorts, where each player complements the other, bringing out the best in its partner without losing any of its own shine. Cooking is full of classic flavor pairings, caramel & sea salt, cinnamon & apple, cranberry & camembert, vine ripened tomatoes & creamy mozzarella cheese, and a springtime favorite – sweet strawberries and tangy rhubarb.

It’s this simultaneous transformation and showcasing of raw ingredients that inspires us, to experiment with flavors in the kitchen. The idea of partnering jam and scones by sandwiching a tangy or sweet layer of jam between two buttery rounds of barley based dough works perfect.

The scone itself has so little sugar that it is not too sweet– making it an excellent accompaniment for your choice of apricot, blueberry, raspberry, fig, plum or blackberry jam.

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Barley Flour Multigrain Scones
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Course Brunch
Cuisine American
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F.
  2. In a bowl, combine milk with apple cider vinegar. Add multigrain cereal & allow to sit for about 30 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together oatmeal, barley & white flour, brown sugar, cardamom, baking powder & salt. Cut in cold butter with a pastry cutter until it resembles small peas.
  4. Add egg & vanilla to multigrain/ milk mixture; lightly beat. Using a fork, carefully combine wet & dry mixtures.
  5. On a work surface, sprinkle a bit of oatmeal & flour, place dough on it & with a spatula roll dough a few times until a rough ball forms. Divide the dough in half.
  6. On a sheet of parchment paper, pat out 1/2 of the dough into an 8-inch circle. Carefully spread jam over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Since the dough is quite soft, using a spoon, drop remaining dough in dollops over jam. With a fork, carefully spread the dollops out as evenly as you can to cover the whole scone. Sprinkle whole or ground flax seeds over scone.
  7. Place parchment with scone on a flat baking sheet & bake for about 25 minutes or until it tests done with a toothpick. Remove from oven & allow to cool slightly. Cut into 10 wedges & serve.

Pork Medallions w/ Wild Mushrooms & Mustard Cream

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Many of the best holiday traditions involve food — and New Year’s is no exception. Not only is it the final celebration of a long holiday season, but it’s also a moment to celebrate the end of a year and the beginning of a new one. When January 1st arrives each year, people across the globe turn to New Year’s Day foods said to bring good fortune, long life, love, and more in the coming year. No matter the events of the previous 12 months, many of us look at the holiday as a chance for a fresh start.

Eating pork is just one of the many foods considered to be lucky. Pigs symbolize progress. Some say it’s because these animals never move backward, while others believe it’s all in their feeding habits (they push their snouts forward along the ground when rooting for food). They are also rotund, symbolizing a fat wallet ahead. The meat itself is fattier than other cuts of meat, making this New Year’s Eve food both tasty and a symbol of prosperity. 

Here in Canada we have so much to be grateful for. I guess if we think further, the most important wish would be for world peace.

HEALTH & HAPPINESS TO EVERYONE IN THE COMING YEAR!

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Pork Medallions w/ Wild Mushrooms & Mustard Cream
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Instructions
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the mushrooms and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 6 minutes.
  2. Wipe out the skillet. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon butter in the skillet over high heat until hot. Sprinkle the pork medallions generously with salt and pepper. Sear over medium-high heat, turning once halfway through, until browned, about 12 minutes for medium. Transfer the pork to a platter.
  3. Add the shallots to the skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring, until golden, about 3 minutes. Add the mustard and heavy cream and bring to a boil, cooking until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the parsley. Spoon the sauce on a plate; place the medallions on the sauce and scatter the mushrooms over top. Garnish with additional parsley, if desired.

Charcuterie Boards

HAPPY NEW YEAR’S EVE!

As we prepare to ring in the new year, it seems food is always involved when it comes to some of our cherished times together. Like many traditional foods that are making a comeback, the culinary art of charcuterie (shahr-koo-tuh-ree) has returned.

Generally, when served in a restaurant, charcuterie is presented as an appetizer on a board alongside artisan cheese and nuts.

The nice thing about serving charcuterie at home is that there are no rules! You can keep it as simple as you like or dress it up with fresh or dried fruits, a variety of artisan breads and crackers, olives, spreads like honey, preserves or jams!

Charcuterie design is arguably just as important as the ingredients you include on your board. Anyone can create a visually impressive charcuterie board by keeping these tips in mind.

Start your board by placing any bowls or jars you want to include. This will include dips, spreads and jellies, as well as olives and pickles. Space out the bowls and jars, leaving plenty of space between them for your meats, cheeses and other items. Include any utensils guests will need to pick up items in bowls or spread jellies and spreads.

Once your bowls are on the board, next, you can place the meats and cheeses. Rather than putting all the meats near each other and all the cheeses together, instead, space out the meats and cheeses across the board. For visual variety, try to vary the appearance of your meats and cheeses. For example, some cheeses can remain in a whole wedge while others are sliced or cubed.

Make sure you have an item on hand that offers a bright pop of color. This will help you add some visual interest to your board. Depending on the meats and cheeses you choose, you may find that your charcuterie board has a fairly consistent, earthy color palette that is lacking variety. A pop of color can make all the difference in this situation. Some examples include tomatoes or strawberries for a pop of red or clementine’s or carrots for a pop of orange.

Once your charcuterie board is mostly complete, use any smaller items you want to include, such as fruit and nuts, to fill in the gaps. For large charcuterie boards, rather than put all the nuts together and all the fruits together, be sure to spread them out across the board. Put a little row or pile in one spot and another in a different spot. This helps to create the look of a board that is brimming with variety, like a cornucopia, rather than a compartmentalized platter.

Finally, to give your charcuterie board an extra special touch, use fresh herbs as a garnish. Herbs like rosemary, basil and thyme can add an additional pop of color, can help you fill any remaining bare spots and will also provide some lovely fragrance to elevate the whole sensory experience. Add sprigs of herbs in several spots spread out over the board. You can tuck some sprigs under cheese wedges or bowls to hold them in place.

Since Brion & I are celebrating New Year’s Eve at home this year, we thought it would be nice to have charcuterie to make it special.

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Charcuterie Boards
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Instructions
  1. The following are some suggestions for the most important elements of a charcuterie board:
  2. CHEESES: choose a variety of hard & soft cheeses * Hard Cheeses: manchego, cheddar (white or orange), swiss, gouda, gruyere, parmesan etc. * Soft Cheeses: brie, triple cream, goat cheese, Havarti, cream cheese w/ pepper jelly on top, blue cheese or gorgonzola
  3. MEATS: prosciutto, salami, ham, cured chorizo, capicola, summer sausage, etc.
  4. SAVORY ACCOMPANIMENTS: * Nuts: almonds, candied pecans, pistachio nuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, etc. * Briny, pickled or marinated: olives, cocktail onions, dill pickles, pepperoncini, olive tapenade, bruschetta. * Savory dips & spreads: whole ground mustard, hummus, ranch, balsamic dip.
  5. SWEET ACCOMPANIMENTS: * Fresh fruit & berries: grapes, apples, pears, oranges, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries & strawberries. * Dried fruit: apricots, cherries, figs, pineapple & mango. * Sweet spreads: fig butter, orange marmalade, blackberry jam, etc. * Chocolate: a few pieces of quality chocolate or chocolate covered nuts.
  6. CRACKERS & BREADS: * Choose a variety of crackers, sliced baguettes or mini toasts of different shapes, sizes & flavors.
  7. FRESH HERBS: * Use fresh rosemary, thyme, basil or sage for a nice fragrance as well as a great visual appearance to your charcuterie board.
Recipe Notes
  • These are only suggestions ... remember, your only limited by your imagination!

Turkey Breast w/ Savory Sweet Potato Stuffing

Christmas Day 2022! It’s amazing how fast this time of year arrives. Nevertheless, the day has arrived, and we are celebrating it for its spiritual meaning as well as a family birthday. Today is my sister Rita’s birthday and though it has been many years since we could all be together at this time as a family, her birth date brings many precious memories. Nostalgia is a very strange thing. It pops up when you least expect it. Taste, smell, music can take you right back to a moment.

My siblings & I grew up on a farm in southern Alberta. Christmas for our family was less about gifts and more about family time & great food. I have such good memories of uncomplicated things that were so special. The Christmas cards hanging on strings decorating every room of our house, cookie cannisters full of Christmas baking, having a wonderful Christmas meal, evenings, when the chores were all done, all of us sitting around the dining room table cracking nuts & eating a few candies with some homemade root beer as a family. And of course, Rita’s birthday meant an added bonus of a birthday cake. In today’s world, all of these things seem so insignificant but they were definitely some of the best and simplest pleasures of a lifetime.

Today, Brion & I are making our day special by having some turkey breast with sweet potato stuffing. Stuffing is a lot like meatloaf — no two recipes are the same, but each one is the best. Aside from sweet potato fries, I’m guessing that most people eat sweet potatoes primarily at Thanksgiving and Christmas. It seems like people fall into one of two categories for the big meal: those who like marshmallows with their sweet potatoes, and those who find the sweet-on-sweet combination revolting. In fact, despite its reputation as a holiday for ‘togetherness,’ these occasions seem to inspire much food-related conflict: should stuffing have fruit in it? Is green bean casserole delicious, or repellant? Is deep-frying a turkey awesome, or deeply terrifying?

Neither Brion or I like the traditional ‘candied yams’, but after making some savory sweet potato bread around Easter this year, I got an idea. Why couldn’t this bread be used in a stuffing for the turkey?? Here’s what evolved from that idea.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RITA! WE LOVE YOU & CELEBRATE YOU ON YOUR DAY.

SEASONINGS GREETINGS TO EVERYONE WHO ENJOYS & FOLLOWS OUR BLOG

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Turkey Breast w/ Savory Sweet Potato Stuffing
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Savory Stuffing
Herb Butter
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Savory Stuffing
Herb Butter
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Instructions
Stuffing
  1. In a saucepan, sauté onion, celery, garlic, mushrooms & seasonings in margarine. Remove from heat. Place vegetable/seasoning mixture in a large bowl & combine with dry sweet potato bread cubes & broth, adding only enough broth to make proper stuffing consistency. Set aside.
Turkey
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Lay turkey breast on a clean work surface so that it lies open & flat. Cover with plastic wrap, then pound lightly with a meat mallet to flatten into an even thickness all over. Discard plastic wrap. Spread the inside of each half with a bit of the herb butter.
  3. On one half of the turkey breast place a thick layer of the savory. Fold the adjoining half of the turkey breast overall. Fasten with metal skewers if you wish to help to keep stuffing enclosed.
  4. Place a wire rack in a roasting pan & lay stuffed turkey roast on it. Brush herb butter over turkey breast. Roast uncovered, until turkey reaches an internal temperature of 180 F. about 2 hours. Cover loosely with foil if top browns too quickly.
  5. Place any extra savory stuffing in a buttered casserole & bake for about 30 minutes, until the top is lightly toasted.
  6. Remove turkey breast from oven, tent with foil & allow to rest for about 5-10 minutes. Slice & serve with extra stuffing.
Recipe Notes
  • The recipe for my savory sweet potato bread was previously posted for an Easter Brunch on April 17/2022. I made one recipe & used half of the loaf for this stuffing.

Nanaimo Bar Thumbprint Cookies

Much like the butter tart and date square, the Nanaimo bar fits Canada’s apparent fondness for rich, decadent sweets. It is a dessert bar that requires no baking and generally consists of three layers: a graham wafer crumb and shredded coconut base, custard-flavored butter icing in the middle, and a layer of chocolate ganache on top. It is named after Nanaimo, British Columbia, where it was popularized in the years following WWII. It subsequently rose to wider prominence after Expo ’86.

Susan Mendelson is perhaps most responsible for commercializing the Nanaimo bar. She sold the bar during the 1970s to help pay her tuition, and in 1979 founded The Lazy Gourmet, a café and catering company in Vancouver, which claims to be the first business to sell the dessert. Mendelson wrote the official cookbook for Expo ’86, held in Vancouver, and included the Nanaimo bar.

After that, the Nanaimo bar began to be sold on BC Ferries and spread in popularity across Canada. It can now be found in Costco, Starbucks and countless cafes in Canada and the United States. There can be some variations with each of these layers — e.g., adding mint, mocha or other flavoring, as well as food coloring, to the icing center, or various nuts to the base — but a classic Nanaimo follows the traditional trio.

In a bid to take advantage of the bar’s popularity, the city of Nanaimo launched a tasting trail much like Ontario has done for the butter tart. Different locations in and around Nanaimo serve different variations on the classic dessert, from flavors such as maple bacon and peanut butter to deep-fried Nanaimo bars, Nanaimo bar spring rolls, Nanaimo bar waffles and cheesecake and Nanaimo bar coffee and cocktails.

All that being said , here’s my Christmas version of a Nanaimo thumbprint cookie.

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Nanaimo Bar Thumbprint Cookies
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Filling
Drizzle
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Filling
Drizzle
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Instructions
Cookies
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, graham crumbs, cocoa, baking powder & salt.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter & sugar for 3-4 minutes, until fluffy. Beat in the egg & vanilla. On low speed or using a spatula, stir in the dry ingredients, along with the coconut and walnuts.
  4. Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch size balls & place a couple inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use your thumb to create an indentation in each cookie.
  5. Bake for 14 minutes, until just set. Remove & use the back of a small spoon to gently reform the indentations. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Filling
  1. In a bowl, beat the butter, powdered sugar, custard powder, cream and vanilla until smooth and fluffy, adding a bit more cream or powdered sugar as needed to create a spreadable frosting. Place the filling in a piping bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip, or in a zip-lock bag; seal and and cut off one corner.
Assembly
  1. Pipe some frosting into each cooled cookie. In a small bowl, melt the chocolate & butter in the microwave in 10 second increments, stirring in between, until smooth. Drizzle the cookies with a fork. Set back on the cooled baking sheets to allow them to set.
Recipe Notes

Substitute for Bird's Custard Powder:

  • For each Tbsp of custard powder that's called for in the recipe, you can make your own custard mix with 1 Tbsp of cornstarch plus 1 tsp of vanilla extract & a pinch of salt.

 

 

Poinsettia Cookie Wreath

There are certain plants that play important and often mysterious roles in holiday traditions and celebrations all over the world. From the Egyptians who decorated trees during the winter solstice, to the Pagans and Druids who used mistletoe in their winter customs, stories of ritualized plant use span continents and history and have become infused into the mythologies that span generations. I’ve always wondered how poinsettias and Christmas became intertwined. After a bit of research this is what I found.

It seems the story behind poinsettias is rich in history and lore. The vibrant plants are native to the rocky canyons of Guatemala and Mexico. Poinsettias were cultivated by the Mayans and Aztecs, who valued the red bracts as a colorful, reddish-purple fabric dye, and the sap for its many medicinal qualities.  The poinsettia was first associated with Christmas in southern Mexico in the 1600s, when Franciscan priests used the colorful leaves and bracts to adorn extravagant nativity scenes.

There is an old Mexican legend about how Poinsettias and Christmas come together, it goes like this:

There was once a poor Mexican girl called Pepita who had no present to give the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve services. As Pepita walked to the chapel, sadly, her cousin Pedro tried to cheer her up.
‘Pepita’, he said, ‘I’m sure that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves him will make Jesus happy.’

Pepita didn’t know what she could give, so she picked a small handful of weeds from the roadside and made them into a small bouquet. She felt embarrassed because she could only give this small present to Jesus. As she walked through the chapel to the altar, she remembered what Pedro had said. She began to feel better, knelt down and put the bouquet at the bottom of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red flowers, and everyone who saw them were sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the ‘Flores de Noche Buena’, or ‘Flowers of the Holy Night’.

The shape of the poinsettia flower and leaves are sometimes thought as a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem which led the Wise Men to Jesus. The red colored leaves symbolize the blood of Christ. The white leaves represent his purity.

Although it doesn’t pre-date Christianity like its Christmas counterparts, the holiday season wouldn’t be the same without the reds and greens of the poinsettia.

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Poinsettia Cookie Wreath
Instructions
Poinsettia Cookies
  1. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, sugar & flavorings with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  2. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour & salt until combined. Divide the dough between 2 large pieces of plastic wrap. Flatten each into a 1/2-inch-thick disk and wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least 1 hour or overnight.
  3. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
  4. Roll out 1 disk of dough between 2 heavy sheets of plastic wrap into a square about 1/8 inch thick. You should be able to cut (9) 3-inch squares from it as well as have some edges left for making about 18 leaves. Re-wrap & refrigerate dough scraps while you shape the poinsettias.
  5. Cut a 1 1/2-inch slit in all four corners of each dough square to form 8 points. Fold over every other point, moisten tip with egg white & press into the center of the square. Arrange cookies on prepared cookie sheet. Refrigerate while you repeat the same procedure with the other disk of dough. 
  6. Cut enough leaves out of the scraps using a sharp knife or a leaf-shaped cutter, making 2 leaves for each poinsettia. Arrange the leaves on plate & lightly brush with egg white, then sprinkle with green sanding sugar. Set aside in the refrigerator.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
  8. Lightly brush the poinsettias with egg white & sprinkle half with red sanding sugar & half with white sanding sugar. Brush the ends of 2 leaves & tuck underneath each poinsettia on opposite sides. (No need to press the dough; it will meld together as it bakes.) 
  9. Bake, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until the cookies are puffed and the edges are golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Immediately press a yellow (chocolate) candy in the center of each warm cookie. Let cool 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.
Assembly
  1. Using a bit of gel paste from a purchased tube, anchor each cookie in place on top of wreath base to form 'poinsettia wreath'. Finish with adding a ribbon or some holly leaves & pinecones or personalize to your own taste.
Recipe Notes
  • I like to save the heavy plastic wrap from frozen puff pastry for recipes like this. When you roll the dough between two sheets of plastic wrap as opposed to using flour on your board, it really keeps the dough from becoming so dry.
  • I found if I took the poinsettia cookies out of the oven about 5 minutes before they were finished baking & pressed the candy center in then returned them to the oven, the candies stuck to the cookies better.

Mushroom Barley Soup w/ Mini Meatballs

Beef barley soup is a classic old-world dish, and it’s been simmering away in pots for centuries, probably as long as people have been making soup. It just makes sense ~ the little white pearls of barley add lovely texture, as well as extra nutrition and satisfying bulk, all important things when you’re trying to make dinner out of a pot of soup. For an added bonus, barley’s natural starch thickens the soup as it cooks.

Beef Barley Soup is classic comfort food that you can make on the stove or in the crock pot. The soup has roots in the Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. Mushrooms were popular in these cold-weather countries because they could be harvested, dried, and stored for later use.

Barley was also plentiful and easy to grow in the Eastern European climate, making it a common addition to hearty winter dishes like soup. Barley’s history goes back even further; in fact, it is arguably the world’s first and most ancient, cultivated grain.

As far as the meatballs, texture can be an issue. If the meatball is too wet, it will disintegrate when cooking in soups. If it is too dry, it will lose its flavor and potentially break up into pieces. Using the right amount of liquid or eggs for the mix to keep them moist, but equally so, enough breadcrumbs or flour to bind them adequately. Remember, you can never get enough seasoning, so don’t be gentle with it, and use spices and herbs liberally.

One of Brion’s favorite soups has always been mushroom beef barley, so now seems a good time to make some.

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Mushroom Barley Soup w/ Mini Meatballs
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  1. In a large saucepan, combine the broth, water, barley & thyme. Season with salt & pepper; bring to a boil. Cover & cook over low heat until the barley is nearly tender, about 18 minutes.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil. Add the mushrooms & shallot, season with salt & pepper; cook over high heat until tender and browned, about 8 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, cheese, 1/2 teaspoon of salt & 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Knead the mixture until blended, then roll it into sixteen 1-inch balls.
  4. Add the meatballs & mushrooms to the soup. Simmer over moderate heat until the meatballs are cooked through & the barley is tender, about 8 minutes. Discard the thyme. Stir the parsley into the soup & serve in bowls with sour cream.

Shortbread Christmas Trees

Years and years ago, the Canada Cornstarch company printed a four-ingredient recipe for shortbread on the side of a cornstarch box and the rest is history.

Here in Canada, shortbread is in our DNA. This beloved cookie is simplicity personified. If the holidays had their own taste, I’m pretty sure it would be a shortbread cookie.

Over 40 years ago a Canadian company, by the name of Mary Macleod’s Shortbread was opened in Toronto, Canada. Mary, a homemaker and fantastic baker who took her love of this cookie and created Canada’s first shortbread-only bakery.

Her shop was an instant hit when she first opened its doors – she’d bake until midnight, and her goods would be sold out by noon the next day. Mary’s business grew and expanded, and her loyal customers followed her everywhere, but, to this day, the company crafts small-batch, all-butter shortbreads, the best butter being the key.

Mary Macleod’s Shortbread became synonymous with the Christmas season. Many people have made shortbread part of their holiday and family traditions.

Shortbread is undoubtedly one of the best cookies, but it’s without question that it all comes down to the butter. A good shortbread cookie can be transformed into the stuff of  dreams by placing freshly baked shortbread into a tin, store it in the back of your pantry, somewhere cool, and forget it  for a few months. You’ll be amazed at the flavor when it comes time to eat it.

So here we are … the famous Canada cornstarch shortbread cookies!

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Shortbread Christmas Trees
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Instructions
  1. In a bowl, sift together cornstarch, powdered sugar & flour. Blend in butter & flavoring with a spoon, mixing until a soft, smooth dough forms. If dough is too soft to handle, cover & chill about 1 hour.
  2. Between 2 sheets of parchment paper, roll dough out into a rectangle about 12" x 7" & 1/2-inch thickness. Make 7 strips on the longest side & 6 strips on the short side. Transfer to ungreased baking sheets spacing 1 1/2-inches apart. Place baking sheets in refrigerator & chill 30 minutes. Halfway through preheat oven to 300 F.
  3. Bake for about 20 minutes or until edges are just barely browned.
  4. When shortbread is cooled, decorate with icing & sprinkles to create Christmas tree design.
Recipe Notes
  • The almond flavor is optional but I think it adds a nice touch.