Medjool Date & Apple Flans

There are so many culinary uses for Medjool dates, in both sweet and savory dishes, whether served hot or cold. Often called the king of dates, not only because they are quite expensive but are highly treasured for their size and rich, intensely sweet flesh.

These special fruits are pricey because their cultivation is incredibly labor-intensive. In order to ensure quality and yield, Medjool date palms need to be hand pollinated, pruned, protected and hand picked. While growing, the date bunches are wrapped in bags to prevent the birds from snacking on them and to keep them from falling on the ground.

Dates are usually left to dry on the tree before being harvested, which accounts for their wrinkly appearance. This places them in a peculiar category of being both dried and fresh. Different types of dates have different textures that fall into three categories: soft (like Medjool); semi-soft, which are chewy and are pitted before packaging to dry a little more; and dry, which are often sun-dried after harvest and sold chopped.

Dates can be paired with lamb or chicken and spiced with Middle Eastern flavors or added to dried apricots, cranberries and toasted walnuts in rice or couscous accompaniments. Their caramel-like flavor adds a hint of the exotic to whatever you choose to use them in.

We had some extra apples I needed to do something with. The thought of pairing them with some Medjool dates and walnuts …. Yum!

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Medjool Date & Apple Flans
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Instructions
Pastry
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, & salt. Cut in white & yellow Crisco shortening. In a dish, whisk together water, egg & apple cider vinegar. Make a well in flour mixture & pour all wet ingredients in it. Combine just until pastry pulls away from the bowl.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry; cut out eight 6-inch pastry circles. They should fit nicely into the mini flan pans that measure about 4 1/2-inches in diameter & are 3/4-inch in height. Once you have the pastry you need for the shells, form the remaining pastry in a 'tube' shape. Set the pastry shells in the fridge while you prepare the filling. FREEZE THE TUBE OF PASTRY. This you will use to GRATE on top of the flans for the top crust.
Filling
  1. In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add prepared apples & saute until they start to soften, about 10 minutes. Add spices & honey, combine & cook 1 minute. Take off heat & allow to cool to lukewarm.
Assembly & Baking
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove mini flan shells from refrigerator & place on a baking sheet. Spoon some apple mixture in the bottom of each shell. Top each with a portion of the dates & walnuts, then evenly divide the remaining apple mixture between them. Remove the frozen 'tube' of pastry from freezer & grate (on a cheese grater). Sprinkle over mini flans.
  2. Bake until nice & golden, about 35 minutes. Cool slightly. Whip cream with sugar, cinnamon & vanilla until stiff & serve on warm flans.

Sheet Pan Bratwurst with Roasted Vegetables

CELEBRATING OKTOBERFEST!

The end of September, when we are still trying to hang on to summer and its already Autumn. Seriously! On the other hand, this time of year brings Oktoberfest for 16 days from late September to early October.

Beer enthusiasts from all over the world flock to Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest, where they feast on everything from steins of beer to plates of sauerkraut, bratwurst, cabbage rolls, sausage and wiener schnitzel. Bavarian music fills the air to promote the fun atmosphere of Oktoberfest.

While the true celebration has to be experienced in Munich, there are actually some great Canadian events that try to duplicate the festivities without having to travel abroad. In different parts of the country, this is a fun and social sampling event featuring many local craft and authentic Bavarian breweries as well as authentic food, Oktoberfest music, dancers, games, etc.

Oktoberfest began as a wedding celebration more than 200 years ago (in Munich, Germany), when Bavaria’s, Crown Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810. The wedding was celebrated with multiple days of drinking, feasting and horse races. Everybody had so much fun that it was resolved to repeat the celebration, which has been done every year since.

This year, to acknowledge Oktoberfest, we are having a sheet pan meal with ‘brats’. Bratwurst is one of the most famous German sausages. Typically this sausage is made from veal, pork or beef and is usually grilled, pan fried or cooked in broth or beer. They are served in a variety of ways depending on the region in Germany, but sauerkraut and spicy mustard are often preferred as a compliment to their rich, meaty flavor. The recipe for the actual sausage varies from region to region with 40 plus varieties.

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Sheet Pan Bratwurst with Roasted Vegetables
Instructions
  1. Pierce the sausages with a sharp knife. Add the beer OR apple juice to a saucepan over medium-high heat & add the sausages & garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce heat & simmer for about 5 minutes. Drain & set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & set aside.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together apple cider vinegar, mustard & brown sugar until sugar dissolves. Prepare vegetables & apples & place in a large bowl; pour mustard mixture over them & toss to coat. Transfer veg mixture to the baking sheet. Top with brats. Season with caraway seeds, salt & pepper.
  4. Bake for 45-50 minutes, tossing once halfway through the cooking time (flipping the brats), or until veggies are browned. Remove from oven & serve.

Shrimp Burgers on Seeded Teff Buns

A while back, I was speaking with my neighbor, Meg, who told me about an ancient grain I had never known about. It is called Teff. This word originates from the Amharic word ‘teffa’ which means ‘lost’ due to the small size of the grain. An annual bunch grass native to the central highlands of Ethiopia and Eritrea. It can survive both wet and dry climates, high temperatures and bright light as well as not being subject to as many plant diseases as other cereal grains. It’s high nutritional value and reliable cultivation have made it Ethiopia’s most important grain crop. Teff’s size makes it convenient because it doesn’t take a large volume of teff seed to plant a field.

Ground into flour, teff is used to make the traditional bread called ‘injera’, a sourdough risen flatbread with a slightly spongy texture similar to a crepe. It can also be found in many gluten-free options of pancakes, breads, cereals, pie crusts, cookies and other snacks.

Meg had given me a package of ‘authentic‘ teff flour so I was anxious to try it. I noticed a great looking recipe for seeded teff rolls on the computer so I was all set. To compliment the teff rolls I made some shrimp burgers w/ avocado aioli. Nice meal!

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Shrimp Burgers on Seeded Teff Buns
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Instructions
Seeded Teff Buns
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together water, yeast, honey, oil & vinegar. Let stand 3-5 minutes or until yeast is dissolved & beginning to proof.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Add yeast mixture to dry ingredients & mix on low speed until combined. Add in egg whites. Once combined, mix on high speed for 3-5 minutes.
  3. Grease a 9-10 inch round baking pan. Scoop the batter into pan (with a spring release scoop) making about 6 buns. Place rolls right next to each other. Cover & let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 F. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven; cool slightly.
Shrimp Burgers
  1. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients for shrimp burgers. Form into 4 patties & set on a plate with squares of wax paper between them. Put in fridge until ready to cook.
Avocado Aioli
  1. In a small bowl, Combine all ingredients for avocado aioli until smooth. Cover & set in fridge until ready to use.
Assembly
  1. In a large skillet, add 3 Tbsp oil & turn heat to medium-high. Gently place shrimp burgers on skillet & cook 3 minutes until golden, flip & cook another 3 minutes.
  2. On each of the sliced, warm teff buns, place a shrimp burger with a generous dollop of avocado aioli. Don't hesitate to add some lettuce & tomato slices if you wish.

Salmon with Roasted Figs & Braised Fennel

Figs, another symbol of Autumn, begin to ripen in late summer. Native to European and Middle Eastern regions but today are widely available around the world. This tear-drop shaped fruit is singular in appearance and flavor. From their characteristic perfumed fragrance to their fragile skin, that is often slit from ripeness, revealing drops of honeyed nectar.

I love the sweet earthiness of figs with all their little seeds, whether they are fresh or dried. Any recipe that calls for peaches, pears, prunes or dates can be substituted successfully with figs. Pairing them with the aromatic anise flavor of fennel is a great compliment to salmon as well as other entrees or baking.

Fennel has been a favorite of Italians for many years due to its mild sweet anise flavor. All parts of the fennel plant, including the bulb, stalk, leaves and seeds are edible.

This recipe is simple but has a wonderful flavor. We enjoyed it served over Jasmine rice.


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Salmon with Roasted Figs & Braised Fennel

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Instructions
Fennel
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut outer leaves of fennel off & discard. Remove stalks, reserving a few fronds for garnish if you wish. Cut the fennel into quarters leaving root in tact. Place a large oven-proof pan over medium-high heat. Add olive oil & allow to heat. Place fennel into the pan ; cook & sear to a golden brown, about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt & pepper & add the chicken broth. Place in preheated oven & roast for about 10 minutes or until slightly soft but still holding quite a bit of firmness in center.

  2. In a small saucepan, combine honey, vinegar & chili powder. Heat & simmer for 3 minutes. Quarter figs & place them on a baking sheet. Drizzle figs with the honey mixture. Place in the oven & roast for 4 minutes or until warm, bubbly & caramelized but still holding their shape.

Salmon
  1. Season salmon fillets with salt & pepper. In a large non-stick skillet, add vegetable oil & heat. Place salmon in skillet & fry on each side until flesh is opaque & translucent in the center. Do not overcook. Serve immediately with the roasted caramelized figs.

Baked Avocado Fries with Strawberry-Rhubarb Salsa

Taking vegetables and turning them into ‘fries’ isn’t a new concept. Through the years we have definitely  become more knowledgeable about nutrition and healthier eating. It seems we are always looking for a way to have that deep fried flavor without consuming so much of the grease.

Trends come and go, but you have to admit, avocados are still high on most of our priority lists. There seems to be endless ways beyond guacamole to unleash their true potential. Baked avocado fries are amazing. Crisp and crunchy on the outside while being smooth and creamy on the inside.

Nothing says ‘summer’ like strawberries and rhubarb. Usually the combo appears in pies, crumbles and the like. But, I think the avocado fries are beckoning me to make a savory salsa out of them. This salsa is a great balance of sweet, tart and spicy — summer eating at its best!

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Baked Avocado Fries with Strawberry-Rhubarb Salsa
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Instructions
Salsa
  1. In a small saucepan with boiling water, cook sliced rhubarb for about 1 minute or until tender crisp but not mushy. Drain. In a bowl, combine rhubarb, onion & strawberries. In a blender, pulse oil, apple cider vinegar & honey; combine dressing with chopped cilantro & rhubarb mixture. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Set aside until ready to use.
Avocado Fries
  1. Prepare avocado slices. Preheat oven to 450 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & place a wire rack on the sheet. Set aside.
  2. In a small dish, measure seasoning & combine. In 3 separate dishes place beaten eggs, flour & panko crumbs. Divide seasoning between them. Coat each avocado slice in the flour, then the eggs & finally the panko. Place on the wire rack & spray lightly with cooking spray.
  3. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until panko is lightly browned Cool about 10 minutes & serve with strawberry-rhubarb salsa.
Recipe Notes
  • Salsa also tastes great on a fresh summer salad or fish tacos.
  • Avocado fries can be served in warm tortillas topped with strawberry-rhubarb salsa or just as is with your favorite dip or sprinkled with Parmesan.

Pineapple Chicken over Wild Rice

This week we are celebrating Brion’s birthday. We have never felt the need to give gifts on ‘occasions’ but rather just enjoy another holiday travelling together or ‘gift’ each other at random. As we grow older, it comes clearer everyday, the special privilege it is to simply have each other to share life with. I appreciate the fact that Brion has always believed in me and supported my endeavors and I’ll be forever grateful for the love we share. This picture of Brion was taken in Havana, Cuba this year along the beautiful seawall. 

               THANK YOU FOR BEING THE SPECIAL PERSON YOU ARE!

                                   BIRTHDAY WISHES, WITH LOVE

 

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Pineapple Chicken over Wild Rice
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Cuisine American, European
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 450 F. Lightly spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan.
  2. Trim chicken, rinse & pat dry; season with salt & pepper. Place the chicken in pan, not overlapping.
  3. Drain pineapple chunks, reserving 1/2 cup of the juice. In a saucepan, whisk together juice, honey, ginger, vinegar & soy sauce. Place over medium heat & simmer, whisking often until slightly thickened, about 8 minutes. In a small bowl, dissolve cornstarch in the water; whisk into the pineapple/honey sauce.
  4. Place the pineapple chunks on top of chicken; pour pineapple/honey sauce over all & sprinkle with the almonds. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until chicken registers 165 F.
Recipe Notes

Stuffed Pork Rolls with Cornbread & Caramelized Onions

Pork tenderloin can be stuffed with anything, imagination is the limit. What’s not to like — easy to prepare, boneless and fork tender. The pairing of pork with cornbread seems perfect, add caramelized onions and you got it!

Cornbread is one of those nostalgic foods for me. It always brings me back to my mother’s kitchen. I remember very clearly that wonderful smell of fresh cornbread coming out of the oven and that small Pyrex, rectangle baking pan she always baked it in. Those special memories came to mind today as I was trying to come up with a supper ‘idea’.

I love stuffing or dressing, whatever you prefer to call it. Of course, my ultimate favorite is the one I grew up with. On the other hand when you just need a very small amount, I see nothing wrong with using a box of ‘Stovetop Stuffing’. Of course I can’t resist telling you just a bit of the history about the product itself —

 In 1972, General Foods  which is now known as Kraft Foods  introduced ‘Stovetop Stuffing’. It was quick, convenient, tasty and therefore was an instant hit. 

The secret lies in the crumb size. If the dried crumb is too small, adding water to it makes a soggy mass; too large, and the result is gravel. The nature of the cell structure and overall texture of the dried bread crumb used in this invention is of great importance if a stuffing which will hydrate in a matter of minutes to the proper texture and mouthfeel is to be prepared.

Ruth Siems, a home economist that spent more than three decades on the staff of General Foods was instrumental in arriving at the precise crumb dimensions — about the size of a pencil eraser.

That being said, here is my idea for this great little combination. We really enjoyed it!

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Stuffed Pork Rolls with Cornbread & Caramelized Onions
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Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, German
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Caramelized Onions
Cornbread Stuffing
Course Main Dish
Cuisine American, German
Servings
Ingredients
Caramelized Onions
Cornbread Stuffing
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Instructions
Caramelized Onions
  1. In a large skillet, heat oil. Add onion & sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until moisture is evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with cider vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Sprinkle with brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown color.
Cornbread Stuffing
  1. Prepare as directed on package.
Pork
  1. Slice tenderloin into 4 pieces. Using a meat mallet, pound into thin slices. Divide caramelized onions between them and spread over meat. Top with a layer of prepared cornmeal stuffing. Roll tightly encasing the filling inside & tie with kitchen twine. Roll pork rolls in the 1/4 cup flour that has been seasoned with salt & pepper to coat lightly.
  2. In a large skillet, heat butter & oil; brown pork rolls well on each side. Remove rolls to a platter,
Red Wine Gravy
  1. Stir 'brown bits' remaining from frying rolls, with garlic, thyme & red wine. Simmer about 5 minutes. In a small dish, combine cornstarch with chicken broth; add to wine mixture, season to taste. Return pork rolls to the pan. Cover, simmer gently for another 8-10 minutes.
  2. Place pork rolls on serving platter & stir fresh parsley into gravy. Spoon gravy over pork rolls & serve immediately.

Baked Glazed Ham

EASTER GREETINGS!

The meat traditionally associated with Easter in America is ham, while in many other parts of the world, the arrival of spring is celebrated with lamb. Eating ham at Easter dates back to at least the 6th century in Germany. Pigs thrived in northern Europe, being forest-adapted animals. They were let to roam the abundant woodlands to forage for acorns and roots. Slaughtered and hung in the autumn of the year, pigs were one of the few meats available to eat in early spring. As Christianity spread northward, it merged with the Pagan spring celebration of ‘Eostre’. A convenient uniting of traditions was born, with ham at the center of the Easter feast.

Even though, adding ‘glaze’ while baking a ham seems like a ‘modern’ idea, raw honey was being used in much earlier times.

A glaze that is both sweet and savory has been one of my favorites for many years. Brion & I are looking forward to enjoying some glazed ham for our Easter meal. 

                                                    HAPPY EASTER TO EVERYONE                                                                          THANKS FOR YOUR  INTEREST  IN FOLLOWING MY BLOGS!

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Baked Glazed Ham
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Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Place ham, cut side down, on rack in a roasting pan. Bake about 30 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 90 F.
  2. In a small saucepan, simmer jelly, preserves, vinegar, mustard, brown sugar & sage stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.
  3. Remove ham from oven. With a sharp knife, lightly score outside of ham, making parallel 1/4" deep cuts in crosshatch pattern. Brush ham with some of the glaze & return ham to oven. Bake until internal temperature reaches 130 F., brushing ham with glaze during baking.
  4. Carefully place ham on a serving platter. Cover loosely with foil & let stand 10 minutes before serving. Internal temperature will rise to 140 F. upon standing.

Overnight Layered Salad

Seven Layer Salad was a popular salad in the 70’s and 80’s. It was perfect for most any large gathering. Typically made with lettuce, onion, celery, frozen peas, boiled eggs, bacon and cheese. The salad was topped off with a thick layer of mayonnaise based dressing. It was always prepared a day before your event, covered and refrigerated overnight. The salad was easy to transport, a beautiful presentation and had a great taste. It could be tossed at serving time or let everyone scoop out their own serving, ‘digging’ through all the layers.

Today, there are unlimited salad combinations and ways to serve them. It seems this old-fashioned salad has found its way into Mason jars, plastic cups and small individual bowls. Just a great summer lunch to take to work, providing you can keep it cool until eaten. Make it in the evening and its ready to go in the morning. The nice thing is you can personalize it in your choice of veggies, dressing, type of cheese and even add meat or fish if you wish. All that being said, here’s a little outline of what you are seeing in the blog picture of the Individual Overnight Layered Salads.

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Overnight Layered Salad
An old idea with a few new twists.
Instructions
  1. Boil eggs to hard boil stage being careful not to overcook.Cool in cold water, peel & set aside. Crisp fry bacon, drain & blot on paper towel. If using tomatoes you may want to seed them.
  2. Layer the ingredients from the outside rim, (of whatever your serving container is) & then in toward the middle, so that you can see some of everything from the outside of the serving container. Top with salad dressing of choice, making sure it covers the salad completely to 'seal' it. Refrigerate overnight.
  3. When ready to serve combine ingredients & enjoy!
Recipe Notes

OTHER OPTIONS:

  • GREENS: Iceberg lettuce, romaine, butter lettuce or spinach
  • VEGGIES:  carrots, broccoli, red onions, jalapenos, fresh mushrooms, cucumber, zucchini, water chestnuts
  • CHEESE: your favorite kind
  • SALAD DRESSING: Ranch or your preference
  • MEAT or FISH: ham, turkey, salmon or tuna

Gourmet Stuffed Potatoes with Caramelized Onion-Apple Burgers

CELEBRATING FATHER’S DAY!

Father’s Day, a time to honor our fathers and father figures who have influenced our lives. Honoring your father on Father’s Day doesn’t require his physical presence. I feel what is more important is the just act of doing it

….. ‘Remembering you is easy, we do it every day.      Missing you is the heartache that never goes away’.

My father passed away in 2005 and Brion’s in 2011. The passage of time will never dim those precious memories we have of them. They followed very different paths in their life’s journey; my father was a farmer and Brion’s an army soldier. Both of them gave so much of themselves to their life’s work as well as to their families.

Since both of our Dad’s were ‘meat & potatoes’ kind of men, it seems fitting that my Father’s Day  blog recipes would center around just that. When I made the Caramelized Onion-Apple Burger combination for us, I made it with ground pork but I’m sure it would taste great with either ground beef or chicken. The Gourmet Stuffed Potatoes are definitely a tried & true recipe that has been around forever but are always enjoyed. 

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Caramelized Onion-Apple Burgers with Stuffed Potatoes
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Caramelized Onion-Apple Burgers
Onion-Apple Burger Filling
Gourmet Stuffed Potatoes
Servings
Ingredients
Caramelized Onion-Apple Burgers
Onion-Apple Burger Filling
Gourmet Stuffed Potatoes
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Instructions
Caramelized Onion-Apple Burgers
  1. To Caramelize Onions/Apples: Heat oil in a large skillet. Add onions & apples; sprinkle with salt. Cook & stir about 15 minutes or until both are tender. Reduce heat; sprinkle with vinegar. Cook, stirring until golden. Stir in brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown in color.
  2. To Make Stuffed Burgers: Place ground meat in a large bowl & combine with spices. Mix well. Shape into 8 thin patties. Divide onion/apple mixture into 8 portions. Place one portion on each of 4 patties ( reserve other 4 portions for later use). Top with remaining 4 patties & press gently to seal enclosing filling completely. Place burgers on preheated, greased barbecue grill over medium heat, close lid & grill, turning once. Cook approximately 14 minutes total. Top with remaining onion/apple mixture. Serve on buttered, lightly grilled Ciabatta buns.
Gourmet Stuffed Potatoes
  1. Pierce potatoes with a fork; rub with oil if desired. Bake at 400 F. for 1 hour or until tender. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Cut a slice off the top of each potato lengthwise. Scoop out pulp, leaving a thin shell. Place pulp in a large bowl & mash.
  2. In a small skillet, saute onions in 1/4 cup butter until tender. Stir Ranch salad dressing mix into sour cream & add to potato pulp along with cream, salt & pepper. Fold in cheese & bacon bits. Spoon into potato shells. Place on a wire rack in a foil baking pan. Melt remaining butter; drizzle over the potatoes. Sprinkle with paprika. Place pan on barbecue to heat through while meat is cooking. If you prefer, you can always put them in the oven at 350 F. for about 20 minutes instead.