Bacon Meatball Stuffed Onions

I think sometimes there’s a slight misconception that the main focus of the meal can’t be made using vegetables. A humble vegetable can turn into a gourmet meal with just a little stuffing.

Onions are the ‘workhorses’ of the kitchen and the foundation of so many dishes across the globe. Sometimes its easy to forget how delicious they really are. We tend to under value anything we have perennial access to. As far as red, white and yellow onions, they are generally interchangeable.

Yellow are the driest, good for long cooking. Red onions are faintly sweeter, good for caramelization and when you need a boost in color. White onions are highest in water content and the mildest, good choice for a raw garnish. When it comes to stuffing onions, all three will work.

Because of their layered structure, onions are really easy to hollow out with a spoon. Just keep spooning until you have a good sized cavity. To make use of the onion pulp, I chopped it and then froze it for uses later on. I preferred to bake these stuffed onions but they can also be cooked on the BBQ as well. Great little sweet/savory summer meal!

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Bacon Meatball Stuffed Onions
Instructions
  1. Cut off the tops & bottoms of the onions & remove the exterior skin. With a spoon, hollow out onions to within about 2-3 outer layers. Set aside. Chop onion pulp & freeze for other uses later.
  2. In a large bowl, combine ground beef, parsley, mushrooms, bread crumbs & all of the spices. Mix well with your hands. Preheat oven to 425 F. Stuff onions with meat mixture; wrap the onion meatballs with 3 strips of bacon each. Secure bacon with toothpicks to keep it from unraveling during cooking.
  3. Place in a baking dish & bake for 40 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven & serve with BBQ sauce. Onions can be cut in half to make 4 servings if you wish after baking them.

German Pancake Bites

If you have never eaten a German pancake, think of it as a cross between a souffle and an omelette with undertones of French toast. Often called a Dutch baby pancake and not unlike a sweet Yorkshire pudding. ‘Eggier than your typical pancake, but sweeter and lighter than an omelette, with more pastry-like characteristics. The sides of the pancake rise high above the edges of the pan, creating a light, puffy crust with a tender, custard-like middle.

Story has it that the name ‘Dutch Baby’ was coined when a restaurant owner’s daughter (in the USA) could not pronounce ‘Deutsch’, the German word for German, and out of her mouth came ‘Dutch’. Originally served as three small German pancakes with powdered sugar and fresh squeezed lemon juice, the Dutch Baby, moniker was born.

These German pancake ‘bites’ are kind of a fun spin on the classic Dutch baby pancakes. The fresh apricot/raspberry sauce along with the Greek yogurt filling, bananas and chocolate makes them such a decadent addition to brunch.

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German Pancake Bites
Servings
Ingredients
Pancake Batter
Greek Yogurt Filling
Apricot/Raspberry Sauce
Servings
Ingredients
Pancake Batter
Greek Yogurt Filling
Apricot/Raspberry Sauce
Instructions
Apricot/Raspberry Sauce
  1. In a food processor, place pitted apricots, lemon juice & sugar; pulse several times until the apricots are COARSELY chopped. Transfer mixture to a saucepan. Lightly boil over medium heat, uncovered for 10 minutes; stirring occasionally to prevent scorching. Add more sugar to taste depending on how sweet your apricots were. Add raspberries & simmer 1-2 minutes or until raspberries are heated through & softened. Set aside until ready to use.
Greek Yogurt Filling
  1. In a bowl, cream together cream cheese & sugar with a hand mixer. Add Greek yogurt & beat on medium-high until smooth & creamy. Set aside until ready to use. Refrigerate if not using right away.
Pancake Bites
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. In a bowl, using a hand mixer, blend eggs, milk, vanilla, flour & salt until well mixed. Pour a small amount of the melted butter in 8 MINI loaf pans. Pour 1/3 cup of the mixture into each of the individual spaces.
  2. Bake for about 15 minutes. Remove from oven & invert on a cooling rack. Place 'bites' on a serving plate. Divide yogurt filling, placing some in the bottom of each individual pancake. Top each with some apricot/raspberry sauce & some banana slices. Drizzle with chocolate & sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

Baked Seafood Stuffed Avocados

Very often when you browse through ideas for preparing avocados the comment is made that they should never be cooked. Avocados are most often eaten raw, chopped up in a salad, spread on toast or made into guacamole. This is usually because they can very quickly become bitter once heated. However, if cooked just right, they are delicious.

Roasting avocados is more of an art than a science. If you choose to roast slices, adding some oil, garlic or chili powder with a little salt and pepper helps to draw out the natural flavor. If you want to slice them in half and remove the seed, you can add any number of fillings. Just bake and enjoy, knowing that the flesh just next to the skin, is the most nutritious part of the fruit.

These crab and shrimp filled avocados make an extraordinary Sunday or special occasion brunch entree. If you like avocados and seafood, this one’s for you!

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Baked Seafood Stuffed Avocados
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Slice & pit avocados. In a large bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients; mix well.
  2. Spoon the mixture equally on top of each avocado half. Place in a glass 9 X 13-inch baking dish or 4 individual servings dishes. Make sure your avocados will not tip over during baking time. Bake for 25 minutes or until cooked. Serve immediately.

Blackberry Scones with Chambord Glaze

Blackberries seem to be my thing this summer. Its funny how every season, something peaks your interest and you want to use it in everything. Since blackberries are pretty tart and quite expensive most of the time, their not always top priority but—.

I happened to come across this scone recipe the other day. It uses self-rising flour, a staple I don’t always have on hand. The recipe seemed interesting in the way that it used buttermilk and lemon zest and not a lot of sugar with these tart berries. Mind you, they do have a bit of glaze on them.

If your not familiar with self-rising flour, it is a mixture made up of regular flour, baking powder and salt. The leavening power of the baking powder is mixed evenly throughout the flour, so you will automatically get that nice rise out of your baked goods every time.

Self-rising flour was invented in England in the 1800’s as a way for sailors to create better baked goods while on board. The idea was patented in the USA around 1849, which eventually led to the creation of mass-market baking mixes such as Bisquick, cake mixes, etc. Self-rising flour should only be used for its specific purpose as it will not work well with breads that are yeasty.

You can make your own by combining 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp fine salt. Keep in mind that most store-bought self-rising flours will contain a ‘softer’ or lower protein content flour than your typical all-purpose flour. This means that your end result, should you use regular all-purpose flour, will be slightly less tender (but still good).

Because of the baking powder, self-rising flour has a shorter shelf life than other flours. For that reason, it is always sold packaged in small quantities.

All that being said, these scones are amazingly tender. The glaze was truly ‘the icing on the cake’. They are sooo-– good!

Print Recipe
Blackberry Scones with Chambord Glaze
Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, European
Servings
Course Brunch, dessert
Cuisine American, European
Servings
Instructions
Scones
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking soda and lemon zest. With fingertips, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg & vanilla; add to flour mixture. Fold in just until incorporated then carefully fold in blackberries. Place dough on parchment paper lined baking sheet. With lightly floured hands, pat dough into an 8-inch circle. Score into 8 wedges. Bake 20 minutes or until golden & test done. Cover lightly with foil if over browning before baked. Remove from oven to a cooling rack. Cool before glazing.
Glaze
  1. In a small dish, combine glaze ingredients & drizzle over cooled scones.

Beef Burgers with Apricot/ Pistachio Chutney

CELEBRATING CANADA DAY!

Food and drink are almost as synonymous with Canada Day as the colors of red and white. More importantly this date celebrates the historical event in which Canada gained its independence from Great Britain in 1867.

On July 1st, from coast to coast, the country’s birthday is highlighted with colorful parades, concerts, carnivals, festivals and firework displays.

Barbecues are definitely the preferred choice of food event as summer entertaining is all about laid-back get together’s. Easy food prep is the name of the game!

For our Canada Day barbecue, it had to be special so here’s what developed—

Print Recipe
Beef Burgers with Apricot/ Pistachio Chutney
Instructions
Chutney
  1. In a skillet, saute shallots without browning. Add apricots, honey & apricot nectar. Simmer until liquid has evaporated. Set aside to cool at room temperature, then stir in the pistachios & a dash of vinegar. Refrigerate.
Burgers
  1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the burgers. Shape into 4 patties & refrigerate.
  2. Preheat the barbecue to high & when the grill is hot, place patties on the grill & sear on both sides, making sure not to turn them too soon. When burgers are well marked & can be lifted off the grill easily, remove them to another part of the barbecue where the heat has been reduced & let them finish cooking undisturbed.
  3. While burgers are finishing, brush mushroom caps with oil & grill on both sides until done. Set them aside. Turn off one of the burners, place the burgers on that part of the grill & top each with a slice of cheese. Close the lid for a few minutes & cook over indirect heat until cheese is melted.
  4. Serve on warmed or toasted ciabatta buns. Top each burger with a mushroom cap, a generous spoonful of chutney & some cucumber slices.

Sour Cream Rhubarb Crostada

I remember the first time I heard of sour cream being used in making a rhubarb pie. I could hardly imagine it but once I tried it there was no going back! If you look through some of the older recipe books, there are at least eight or nine different pies made using sour cream. These nostalgic desserts certainly take you back to a simpler time.

Basically this is your classic rhubarb pie except with a sweet/sour cream, custard filling. The sour cream is not assertive; its presence simply provides a rich, creamy background for the rhubarb.

I’m not sure why, but I never get tired of cooking (or eating) rhubarb. Every season, I can’t wait until its ready to use. Last year, Brion and I found another spot for three new plants to grow in our yard, so hopefully they do well. I realize its not for everyone but it is certainly versatile in its uses.

For this rhubarb crostada, I’m using an spiced-oat streusal topping which almost mimics a baked fruit crumble taste. Serving this dessert chilled brings it to its full potential. Of course, when you add a scoop of ice cream!

Print Recipe
Sour Cream Rhubarb Crostada
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Cornmeal Pastry (OR use purchased refrigerated pastry if you wish)
Course Brunch, dessert
Servings
Ingredients
Cornmeal Pastry (OR use purchased refrigerated pastry if you wish)
Instructions
Cornmeal Pastry
  1. In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using your fingertips, cut in the butter until mixture resembles BOTH coarse crumbs & small peas. Sprinkle the cold sour cream mixture over dough, 1 Tbsp at a time, tossing with a fork to evenly distribute it. After you have added all the liquid mixture, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed. Do NOT over work pastry. Press dough into a disk shape; wrap in plastic wrap & refrigerate until ready to use.
Spiced-Oat Topping
  1. In a bowl, combine all topping ingredients with fingertips until crumbly; set aside.
Filling
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a bowl, Mix 1 cup sugar, 3 Tbsp flour, 1 tsp cardamom & orange zest. Stir in slightly beaten eggs & sour cream, add rhubarb; toss gently.
  2. Remove pastry from fridge. Preheat oven to 375 F. On a large sheet of parchment paper, roll out pastry into a 12-inch circle. Place pastry in a 9-inch pie pan, leaving parchment paper underneath it. Pour filling into crostada; gently fold the 1/2-inch of pastry remaining above pie pan rim over edge of crostada. Sprinkle spiced-oat topping over filling. Brush pastry edge with egg wash.
  3. Bake 50-60 minutes until edge is puffed, filling is slightly jiggly & topping is golden. Cover loosely with foil if topping begins to brown too much. Cool at least 3 hours before serving. Slice & serve with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream.

Baked Avocado Bacon Omelette with Salmon/Dill Scones

What to call it — an omelette, frittata or quiche? While this trinity of brunch egg dishes all contain eggs, the preparation methods vary. All are delicious but here’s what defines them.

The traditional French omelette contains eggs, a splash of water and a pinch of salt and pepper. The briskly whipped eggs are cooked in clarified butter then turned out of the pan when still a little custardy and unset. These (colorless) omelettes are rolled up like a business letter and served with only a few herbs. In North America, we seem to want to ‘clean out the fridge’ so to speak, adding just about anything and everything. This version is cooked until mostly dry on top and golden on the bottom. As a rule, they are folded over once, then served.

Frittatas are generally thicker than omelettes. The ingredients are mixed in, instead of sprinkled on. While started on the stove, sometimes they are finished under the broiler then served in slices like a pie.

Quiche, on the other hand, is a savory custard baked in a pastry crust or a potato crust. Quiche gets its richness from the addition of whole milk, half & half or even heavy cream. Just to add another twist to the mix — enter the ‘crustless quiche-omelette’.

This particular meal at our house, was one of those ‘clean out the fridge’ ideas that turned out absolutely wonderful. I had posted the salmon/dill scones on a blog a number of years ago. They made an ideal compliment for this meal.

Print Recipe
Baked Avocado Bacon Omelette with Salmon/Dill Scones
Instructions
Baked Omelette
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a deep pie plate with cooking spray.
  2. In a skillet, saute bacon until cooked but not real crisp; dry on paper towel & crumble. Add onions, mushrooms & garlic to skillet, sauteing in bacon drippings until tender crisp. Chop tomato & 1 avocado. Grate cheese. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, salt & pepper. Add all prepared ingredients; gently stir.
  3. Pour mixture into pie plate distributing evenly. Bake 35-40 minutes, rotating once half way through. Let omelette cool for 5 minutes. Top with remaining sliced avocado & serve.
Salmon/Dill Scones
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 8 muffin cups with paper liners. In a bowl, mix together flour & baking powder. Add grated cheese, smoked salmon & dill. In a separate bowl, whisk egg, buttermilk & oil.
  2. Place half of the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients & stir well. Then add the rest of the wet ingredients & mix until completely combined. Spoon into paper liners until each is filled halfway, then place a heaping tsp of cream cheese in the middle of each scone. Divide the rest of the batter between the 8 cups.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate pan & continue to bake for another 10 minutes or until scones are just browning on top & test done.

Balsamic Glazed Fig & Pork Kabobs

Thirty or more years ago, balsamic vinegar was relatively unknown outside of Italy. Due to our exposure to gourmet food magazines, television cooking shows and celebrity chefs, there is hardly a household without a bottle in its pantry these days.

Balsamic vinegar actually derives its name from the word ‘balm’, which refers to an aromatic resin or odor, as well as a substance that soothes, relieves and heals.

For hundreds of years, wealthy Italian families have made balsamic vinegar for their own consumption, nurturing their supplies over the years. Passed on from generation to generation, gifting small amounts to treasured friends and honored guests and perhaps even bequeathing some to a daughter as part of her ‘dowry’. Balsamic vinegar came to be considered a symbol of peace.

In about 1980, the popularity of balsamic vinegar soared due to Italian chefs discovering how intense flavors complemented modern Mediterranean cuisine. Local families couldn’t gear up production to meet the new demand. New producers developed imitation versions, consequently many of us have yet to taste truly authentic balsamic vinegar or ‘Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale’, as its known in Italian.

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Balsamic Glazed Fig & Pork Kabobs
Instructions
  1. Cut pork into 1-inch cubes. Combine next seven ingredients; place pork cubes in a plastic bag. Toss to coat well; refrigerate until ready to grill. In a small dish, make a glaze by whisking together vinegar, honey, mustard & oil. Set aside.
  2. On water-soaked wooden skewers, thread pork cubes & figs. Grill, covered, on a greased rack over medium-high direct heat, turning occasionally, about 8-10 minutes. During last half of grilling, brush cooked surfaces frequently with glaze.
  3. Let skewers stand 5 minutes; add a tomato to each. Transfer to serving platter & sprinkle lightly with Gorgonzola & basil. Serve some of your Blueberry & Blackberry Rustic Tart for dessert.

Blackberry & Blueberry Rustic Tart

Nothing says summer like fresh fruit and if blackberries aren’t in the mix, you’re missing out. Blackberries have a sweet, tart flavor making them perfect for salads, smoothies, blended into savory sauces, eaten fresh or in desserts.

Blackberries are closely related to raspberries but should not be confused with the black raspberry. Although native to Europe, we can grow them here in Canada. They will thrive in a wide range of soils but good drainage and direct sunlight are a must. Blackberries are the largest of the wild berries, growing on thorny bushes called brambles.

Because blackberries and blueberries make such an amazing combo, using them in this tart seems very fitting. My favorite alternative cornmeal pastry makes a buttery yet slightly crunchy crust. Since it stays so soft, I found it easier to press this pastry into the tart pan as opposed to rolling it out. I added a border after I filled the shell to give it a more rustic look. What more could you want — eye appeal and a fabulous flavor!

I should mention, I’m going to post some balsamic glazed fig & pork kebabs next time. Save a couple of pieces of this tart as they are a perfect ending to that meal.

Print Recipe
Blackberry & Blueberry Rustic Tart
Servings
Ingredients
Cornmeal pastry
Servings
Ingredients
Cornmeal pastry
Instructions
Cornmeal Pastry
  1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. With fingertips, cut in butter until mixture resembles small peas. In a measuring up, combine ICE water & sour cream. Add to dry mixture. Mix only until combined, do not over mix. Press into your favorite choice of pan ( tart, quiche or pie pans are all good). Place in fridge or freezer until ready to fill.
Filling
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. In a large bowl, combine berries, sugar, flour & lemon juice; spoon into pastry shell. Brush edges with beaten egg & sprinkle with coarse sugar.
  2. Bake 45-50 minutes or until crust is golden & filling is bubbly. If your pan has a removable bottom, it makes it a lot easier for serving. Cool slightly & serve with whip cream (or ice cream) if you choose.

Couscous Shrimp Paella

When it comes to the traditional flavor of paella, it all comes down to location. If you live by the sea, its common to use shellfish. For people living inland, other proteins are used that are readily available.

Confirmed as Spain’s best loved contribution to world cuisine, paella is typically prepared with rice, saffron, seafood, chicken and Spanish chorizo sausage.

In regards to the rice used, bomba rice absorbs the flavors of the oil, stock and other ingredients. Arborio will get a bit creamy, whereas jasmine and basmati add flavor instead of soaking others up. Long grain just doesn’t have the right texture for paella.

To put a little different spin on my paella today, I’m preparing it with Israeli couscous. Israeli or pearl couscous is a small, round pasta-like granule made from semolina and wheat flour. It should not be confused with the tiny, yellow North African couscous. Israeli couscous is twice as large and is toasted rather than dried, which gives it a nutty flavor and a hearty texture.It easily absorbs flavors, making it very versatile as a base for chicken and fish or in soups, salads, pilafs, etc.

I’ve made couscous with rice as well as the short vermicelli noodles. Today is the first time with couscous and we really enjoyed it.

Print Recipe
Couscous Shrimp Paella
Instructions
  1. In a large heavy saucepan, heat oil. Add onion, garlic & sweet peppers; cook until tender-crisp, about 8 minutes. Add all of the spices; cook 1 minute more, remove to a dish & set aside.
  2. In the saucepan, scramble-fry sausage meat. Add broth, water & couscous; simmer, covered 10 minutes. Stir in peas & shrimp; simmer another 5 minutes or only until shrimp is cooked. Add seasoned vegetables, gently stir to combine. Serve, garnished with olives.