CELEBRATING HERITAGE DAY!
In 1974, the first Monday of August was made an official provincial holiday to recognize and celebrate the varied cultural heritage of Albertans. Businesses can choose whether or not to recognize the day as a general holiday, which most do.
In our city of Edmonton, a three-day outdoor festival is held to sample food, see performances and celebrate Canada’s multiculturalism. It features 60 pavilions that represent more than 85 cultures from all over the world.
Even though many people will take in the days events and cultural food at the festival, some choose to pack a picnic lunch and take a drive somewhere to just relax.
I am posting some savory chicken scones that should work real well with that idea.
Savory Chicken Picnic Scones
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, combine yogurt & sage leaves; allow to stand for 10 minutes. In a saucepan, heat olive oil & saute onion for 5 minutes until soft, then set aside to cool.
In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder & salt; rub in butter to form fine breadcrumbs. Stir in yogurt/sage mixture as well as sauteed onion. Turn out onto a floured surface & knead very lightly. Divide dough into 4 or 6 equal pieces. Form into balls & lay on prepared baking sheet. Flatten to 3/4" thickness; brush tops with beaten egg. Bake about 10 minutes or until risen & golden.
When scones are cool, slice in half & spread lightly with butter. Top each of 4 (or 6) halves with chicken & bacon slices. Drizzle with Ranch dressing & place some cut pickled asparagus spears on top. Cover with remaining 4 scone halves. Serve with tomato wedges on the side.
This week we celebrate my husband, Brion’s birthday. Since we have never felt the need to mark such occasions by giving gifts, we would rather just make some memories together. In January of this year (2019), we enjoyed a wonderful vacation in Merida, Mexico. Known for its rich history in Maya culture and tradition, Merida is also the capital of the Yucatan.
Although referred to as a colonial city, Merida has distinguished itself from other cities in Mexico by having something that can only be seen in its originality in the state of Yucatan, even more in Merida. The ‘you & me’ chairs or the ‘sillas tu y yo’, bring unique quality to this beautiful city. These chairs can be seen all around Merida. When you sit down you are facing the other person. The origin of these chairs is unclear. Popular legend has it that an over-protective father in Merida created this chair design so when his daughter was with her boyfriend they could talk comfortably without having to sit next to each other. The chairs have become part of the city’s culture and individuality.
We had such a great time and felt wonderfully safe during our stay. As I mentioned in a blog from February (2019), one of Brion’s ‘bucket list’ items was to visit Chichen Itza. It was amazing!
As always, Brion had done a great deal of research on the area before we went. I am always grateful for the ‘flawless’ vacations we have enjoyed over the years due to his careful planning.
THANKS FOR BEING THE SPECIAL PERSON YOU ARE!
BIRTHDAY WISHES, TO THE LOVE OF MY LIFE
Bacon Weave Stuffed Chicken Breast
In a small bowl, combine avocado filling ingredients. Set aside until chicken is ready to stuff.
Place the chicken breasts between 2 pieces of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet, carefully pound chicken breasts until an even 1/2-inch thickness. On 2 large sheets of plastic wrap, prepare a bacon 'weave' square for each chicken breast. Place 3 strips of bacon perpendicular to you. Weave 3 more strips parallel to you by folding down alternating strips (no different than a lattice weave pastry crust).
Divide avocado filling between the 2 flattened chicken breasts. Using plastic wrap, roll both bacon & chicken together to form a 'parcel'. Tuck in any loose bacon ends & secure with toothpicks.
Preheat oven to 400 F. In a heavy oven-safe skillet, heat 1-2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Sear the bacon wrapped chicken on both sides for a few minutes. Cover pan with foil & place in oven for 20-30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 165 F on an oven thermometer.
Today, July 25th is my sister Loretta’s birthday. The sibling bond is thought to be one of the most important and longest relationships in our lives. No other peer relationship involves a shared upbringing, shared genes and shared secrets. In childhood, an older sister is an admirable guide to the adolescent world. As we grow older, it is so wonderful to be able to reminisce about events or times you both recall even though to everyone else they are boring. Life events often change the dynamics of many sibling relationships. Thank you, Loretta for being such an amazing sister who has enriched my life in too many ways to count.
I chose this meal for today’s blog not only because Loretta is a seafood lover but from what I have read, it is also ‘St James Day’.
It seems, when you look for any food history that surrounds this meal there isn’t a lot available. The most repeated story is that a knight was saved from drowning by St. James. The knight emerged from the water covered with shells. Coquille St. Jacques translates as the shell of St. James with the origin dating back to the Middle ages.
Classically served in a scallop shell, this special dish consisted of scallops in a creamy wine sauce, topped with breadcrumbs or cheese and browned under a broiler. Scallops, because of their delicate, subtle nature, make a fine marriage with any number of foods and seasonings.
For our meal (in Loretta’s honor), I have used a seafood blend, mashed potatoes and a Gruyere/Parmesan topping. I wish you were here Loretta, to enjoy it with us.
OUR FAMILY CELEBRATES YOU WITH LOVE & AFFECTION ON YOUR DAY!
Coquilles St. Jacques
Cook potatoes in salted boiling water until fork tender. Drain & transfer to a bowl; add butter, milk, salt & pepper. Using a hand mixer, whip potatoes, cover & set aside.
Drizzle a tiny bit of oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, salt & pepper & cook until tender-crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Add flour & whisk until well combined with onions & garlic. Pour the milk slowly while whisking constantly, making short pauses from time to time to whisk until sauce becomes nice & smooth, then start pouring again. Once the milk has been added, whisk in the Dijon mustard, basil paste, dried dill & parsley. Stir in clams & set aside.
Drizzle a medium saucepan with a bit of olive oil. Saute mushrooms until liquid evaporates, set aside. Add a few more drops of olive oil to the saucepan, add the scallops & cook without moving for about 1 minute. Flip the scallops over & continue cooking until they form a nice crust on that side. Remove from pan & set aside.
Add the shrimp to the pan & quickly saute them until they just turn pink & opaque, not much more than a minute. Remove from pan & set aside. Add the salmon to the pan & cook until it just turns opaque, about a minute or two. Add the salmon to the reserved sauce & stir in. Set aside.
Grate cheese & place in a small dish. Add Panko breadcrumbs, parsley & melted butter. Combine well.
Assembly & Baking
Preheat oven to 375 F. Place Place a scallop in the center of each individual oven safe shell; surround with four of the shrimp. Cover with sauce, dividing it equally between each shell. Give the potatoes a quick stir & place them in a large pastry bag equipped with a star tip. Pipe a border around the filling; sprinkle topping mix over filling. Place in oven for about 15-20 minutes until golden & bubbly. Serve immediately. Nice to serve with garlic bread.
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.
Baked Avocado Bacon Omelette with Salmon/Dill Scones
Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a deep pie plate with cooking spray.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bake for 10 minutes, rotate pan & continue to bake for another 10 minutes or until scones are just browning on top & test done.
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.
Blackberry & Blueberry Rustic Tart
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.
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.
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.
Quiche always sounds fancy or ‘gourmet-ish’ but the truth is, its one of the easiest meals to prepare. The same filling can be used in any size quiche recipe. Once you have a good basic format the possibilities are endless.
Start with the pan size — for a large quiche, use a 9-10-inch pie pan. For individuals, use muffin tins and for mini appetizers, use mini muffin tins.
EGGS: – A ratio of one large egg per half cup of dairy is a good rule to create a fluffy filling. DAIRY: – Heavy cream or a blend of half & half plus cream produces a rich but calorie laden filling. One or two percent milk works just as well but needs a bit longer to set. Using a mixer or a whisk to whip egg mixture until frothy results in a stable filling with a lighter texture. ADD-INS: – Vegetables, greens and meat need to be pre-cooked before adding to egg mixture to prevent the filling from becoming runny. Tomatoes and herbs are the exception. BLIND BAKING CRUST: – This is entirely personal preference. Pre-baking your crust a bit helps to prevent filling from leaking through. I have found that putting the cheese in the crust first, add-ins second and filling last will do the same thing. A blind baked crust will always be crispier if that’s what you want to achieve. OVEN POSITION: – For a large quiche use the bottom rack. For individual or mini quiche use middle rack.
In my quiche today, I started with my favorite, simple cornmeal crust. You can either roast your own potatoes and green beans or purchase a package of the Green Giant steamers version. Use your own sausage choice. As you have probably noticed, I love the red pepper/ Asiago sausage made in-store at Save-On foods. Quiche of whatever kind, is always in my regular meal rotation.
Roasted Potato with Red Pepper/Asiago Sausage Quiche
In a small bowl, combine sour cream & ice water; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar & salt. Using a pastry blender or finger tips, 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 sour cream mixture, dough should be moist enough to stick together when pressed. If not add additional ice water, 1 tsp at a time. Do NOT over work the pastry.
I am using an 8-inch deep dish pan for my quiche. Cut out a circle of parchment about 12-inches in diameter. Roll or pat pastry evenly over paper leaving 1/2-inch border. Lift paper with pastry into pan carefully helping it to conform to the pan shape. Place in refrigerator until filling is prepared.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Rinse & pare baby potatoes & green beans (cut in to bite size pieces). Place in a plastic bag with some oil & shake well. On a foil lined baking pan, spread veggies out, season with dried rosemary, garlic powder, salt & pepper. Roast until tender. Remove from oven & cool slightly. If using frozen, cook as directed on bag for minimum time. Pour into a dish & cut up large pieces of potatoes. Adjust oven to 350 F. for quiche.
In a skillet, crumble sausage; add mushrooms. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until sausage is cooked; drain. Add sausage/mushroom mixture to roast veggies; stir to combine.
In a pitcher, whisk together eggs, cream & pepper until blended. Remove pastry from refrigerator; sprinkle cheese over bottom. Spoon filling mixture over cheese then carefully pour egg/cream combo over all.
Bake 35 minutes or until eggs are set in center. If necessary, cover edge of crust with strips of foil during the last 15 minutes of baking to prevent excessive browning. If you like, sprinkle with some fresh parsley.
- The extra border you left on the parchment when patting out the pastry will make it easy to lift the quiche out of the pan when cooled. I find you can make nice clean cuts that way.
For those unfamiliar with Peach Melba, it is a classic dessert that was invented around the late 1800’s in honor of an Australian soprano opera singer named Nellie Melba. The flavors are always raspberry and peach and was traditionally served with vanilla ice cream. Melba is actually the nickname for Melbourne, her Australian hometown. Her real name was Helene ‘Nellie” Porter Mitchell but everyone called her Melba. She was internationally famous for her remarkable ‘crystal’ voice.
French chef, Georges Auguste Escoffier, not only created this special dessert but also developed what is known as the ‘kitchen brigade’ system or ‘Brigade de Cuisine’.
The next time you enjoy an elaborate meal in a hotel dining room (on a special occasion) that is perfectly executed, don’t presume this was just by accident. The brigade system revolutionized the way diners eat, allowing people to have meals, whatever their order, arrive at the table at the same time. This system was instituted to streamline and simplify work in hotel kitchens. It served to eliminate the chaos and duplication of effort that could result when kitchen staff did not have clear-cut responsibilities.
Today, most restaurants use some simplified variation of Escoffier’s original system. It is this foundation of kitchen organization that made way for the ‘a la carte menu’ we know so well today.
I have added a chart at the end of the blog showing the basic hierarchy of authority in this kind of system. I realize I got a bit removed from my peach melba dessert but — . Having spent so many years in the commercial world of cooking, I have a great appreciation for this gifted chef’s contribution to the food industry.
I decided to use the classic peach and raspberry ingredients in some mini upside down bundt cakes. The ginger spice adds a bit of unexpected ‘zing’ to its flavor.
Peach Melba Ginger Cakes
In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar & cornstarch. Add raspberries & water; cook over medium-high heat until thickened & clear. Remove from stove & press through a wire mesh to make a puree. Discard seeds. Add extract if using. Set aside.
Drain peach juice into a measuring cup. Set peaches aside. In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp peach juice, sugar & cornstarch. Cook, stirring, until thick & bubbly. Add the peaches & vanilla. Stir to blend, set aside until ready to use.
Preheat over to 375 F. Butter 4-5 mini bundt pans. In a bowl, combine all cake ingredients & beat only until smooth. Divide between bundt pans. Place pans on a baking sheet & bake for 15 minutes or until cakes have risen & test done with a toothpick is inserted. Remove from oven, cool for a few minutes then turn over on serving plates. Top with warm peach sauce & raspberry coulis. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream if you wish.
Mushroom Wellington is a vegetarian spin on the French classic ‘beef wellington’. The original is an elegant meal, using a beef tenderloin covered with liver pate’, wrapped in pastry and baked. The key to preparing items in this fashion, is that however long it takes to bake the pastry to a golden brown is how long it will be in the oven. In other words, the filling needs to require less time to cook.
A plant based filling makes that even easier to achieve than its meat filled cousin. The use of different types of mushrooms cut into varying sizes gives the dish texture and heartiness along with an earthy flavor. The secret to a deliciously juicy yet flaky mushroom wellington is to drain everything dry and make sure it is completely cold before wrapping it in the puff pastry. Skip this step and your pastry is not only going to be soggy, it will tear when you try to wrap up your wellington. Believe me — ‘bin there, done that’!
Although this would probably be the center piece of a vegan meal, it works beautifully as an accompaniment to meat and roast veggies as well.
In a skillet, fry diced bacon until crispy. Remove bacon to paper towels & blot dry, leaving drippings in skillet. Chop mushrooms, onion & garlic. Saute veggies with spices in bacon drippings until moisture has evaporated. Remove from heat, add bacon & drain or blot off any excess moisture. Cool mixture completely then add cold, cooked Basmati rice, stirring to blend. While the mixture cools prepare vegetable gravy if you are using it.
Preheat oven to 400 F. Line your choice of preferred baking pan mold with thawed puff pastry. You should have excess enough to fold over the 'top' of filling. This will form the bottom of your wellington when baked. In each wellington, place 1/4 of the filling, topping each with 50 gms of the cheese. Divide remaining filling between the two wellingtons & fold the excess pastry over it.
If you choose to make a decoration for your baked wellingtons, cut it from some of the excess before closing them. Bake the decorations on a separate pan. Place molds on a baking sheet & bake for about 35 minutes or until pastry is cooked. Remove from oven. I like to flip them onto paper towel at this point just to blot off any excess butter from pastry. Do what you prefer in this case.
In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add bouillon powder, garlic, carrot, celery & onion. Cover & simmer until veggies are very soft. Remove from heat & cool slightly. Puree in food processor or blender. Combine cornstarch & water in a small dish. Stir into puree; return to heat & stir until boiling & slightly thickened. Stir in sour cream IF USING. Serve over mushroom wellingtons.
- If you prefer, omit bacon & use butter to saute your veggies in making it a more vegetarian friendly entree.
In my second blog for the month of November/2018, I had featured an article on ‘Ube’ Sweet Rolls. This was my first experience using this interesting Filipino purple yam. Since we had really enjoyed the flavor, why not take it further?!
First, I just wanted to talk a bit more about this tuber. Ube originated in the Philippines and refers to a bright purple sweet potato. Traditionally it is boiled and mashed with coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk to form essentially ‘dessert mashed potatoes’. Unlike Matcha or Durian that have intense scents and flavors, ube doesn’t require a developed palate to enjoy.
It is easy to confuse ube with taro, but they are completely different foods. Taro is typically white on the inside and used in savory dishes, while ube is more commonly used in making sweets.
The violet purple color makes it highly photogenic, which gives it a natural marketing quality. The taste has been described as something similar to white chocolate with earthy nutty tones, gentle but not intense.
Fresh ube seems fairly difficult to find in North America but with a little persistence its possible. There are a few different forms it is sold in. Dehydrated powder, extract, ube halaya (or paste) or as a grated frozen product. Ube is not an exotic ingredient in the Philippines, but a common everyday staple that deserves a bit more respect and understanding.
When I saw a cheesecake recipe using ube, I couldn’t imagine a more perfect base for an Easter dessert. Creamy ube with the perfect note of tang and richness from the cream cheese.
Easter 'Ube' Cheesecake Baskets
Line 8-9 large muffin cups with large paper liners. In a bowl, combine melted butter & crumbs; stir until mixture looks like coarse meal & all of the crumbs are moistened with the butter. Divide crumbs between lined cups; set aside.
Check for any hard particles in the thawed purple yam & discard them. Wrap purple yam (ube) in foil & steam for about 20-30 minutes or until very soft. Mash until creamy & let cool.
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, beat cream cheese until soft & fluffy. Add sugar & salt beating until combined. Add the cooled 'ube' & beat until incorporated & smooth.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition then add vanilla. Pour into prepared 'cups'. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until they test done when the tip of a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Lay a piece of paper towel over a wire cooling rack. Remove cheesecake cups from oven; cool for a few minutes then lift out onto paper lined rack. Cool, then chill in the fridge for at least 6-8 hours.
Eggs are one refrigerator staple that most households are rarely out of. While they have many uses, one of my personal favorites is always quiche. Another staple in my pantry is canned wild red salmon.
The idea for this quiche today came from an old appetizer recipe. It was for salmon tartlets with a cream cheese pastry. This type of pastry is one that seems to go either way —tender or tough. What I’ve come to find through trial and error, is that a 1:1 ratio by weight, of butter to cream cheese, ensures a flaky, tender crust. Cream cheese pastry is nice because it is so versatile. It can be used for both sweet and savory applications.
Since I am in ‘gourmet mode’ today, I decided to kick it up a notch and use a little exotic medley of fresh mushrooms. My choice is enoki, crimini, oyster, portabellini and button. For cheese, I’m going with Gorgonzola dolce. If I were to describe the end result, it would be, a tender, cream cheese pastry filled with an earthy mushrooms, red salmon and tangy Gorgonzola cheese. Hard to beat that flavor combination, but of course, only if you like those ingredients.
Wild Red Salmon & Mushroom Quiche
In a bowl, beat butter & cream cheese; blend in flour to form pastry consistency. Press into a deep dish 8-inch quiche pan. Set aside in refrigerator until filling is prepared.
In a skillet, saute sliced green onions, mushrooms & garlic in margarine until moisture has evaporated. Remove from heat. Preheat oven to 400 F.
Grate cheese. In a container, whisk together eggs, milk & seasonings. Sprinkle about 1/2 of the Gorgonzola cheese in the bottom of the quiche shell. Top with mushroom mixture & salmon chunks then with remaining cheese.
Bake at 400 F. for 10 minutes, adjust heat to 350 F. & continue baking for another 30 minutes. When filling is set, remove from oven & cool at least 10 minutes before cutting. It tastes great just out of the oven, but even better the next day.