It goes without saying, eggplant is beloved in many cuisines. It has been considered the ‘queen of the garden’ with it’s almost purple-black, glossy skin and cap-like crown.
Eggplants are bitter when raw but develop a savory and complex flavor when cooked. The texture of the flesh is meaty and easily absorbs sauces and cooking liquids.
Native to the Indian subcontinent and the Himalayan area, they have been cultivated in Southeast Asia since prehistoric times. Cultivars in the 18th century were white to pale yellow in color and resembled hen’s eggs which explains the reason this fruit is called ‘eggplant’. There are dozens of eggplant subspecies grown throughout the world in many shapes and sizes.
The most popular one we see here in North America is the dark purple ‘globe’ eggplant which ranges in weight from 1-5 pounds. When buying them, look for ones with smooth, firm, unwrinkled skin and a fresh looking green stalk or cap. Eggplant is commonly used in ratatouille, pasta dishes, spreads, dips, moussaka or stuffed and roasted.
Today, I’m making a stuffed version with an interesting fresh basil-chicken filling.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise; carefully hollow out each half. Roughly chop the removed flesh.
In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil & saute onion until tender, about 5-6 minutes. Add the chopped eggplant, mushrooms & garlic. Cook until eggplant is tender, about 7-8 minutes. Add ground chicken, oregano, salt & pepper. Cook until chicken is no longer pink, about 10 minutes.
Stir in in roasted red peppers, cooked rice & fresh basil; remove skillet from the heat. Place eggplant halves in a baking dish & fill with chicken/rice mixture. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds; drizzle with remaining olive oil & bake 30-35 minutes until tender.
Remove eggplant from oven & top with grated cheeses.
In Canada, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day on the second Monday in October. Although, we seem to be more connected digitally than emotionally, it is a day meant to bring us together with our families and friends sharing in a thanksgiving meal.
Thanksgiving is about being grateful for having a roof over our heads, safety and security as we move about in our daily lives, clothes to keep us warm and for the family and friends we love and cherish.
Gratitude is not something that we talk about or think about but more about humanity. It is not just about what we do, but about who we are.
Most of us here in Canada, have far more things to be grateful for than not. I have fond memories of my wonderful parents, carefree childhood days with my siblings, having enjoyed a successful career, a loving husband, our home, the many wonderful world travels we have been able to enjoy together, but above all we are both in relatively good health. It is so important to just take the time and appreciate the blessings in our lives and make every day count.
Stuffed Turkey Breast with Butternut Squash & Figs
In a large skillet, heat olive oil. Add onions & saute for 2 minutes, until golden. Add butternut squash & 2 Tbsp water to cover; cook on low heat for 10 minutes. Remove lid & add figs, garlic, zucchini, salt , sage & pepper; cook for another 3-4 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Cut a pocket into the sides of the turkey breast tenderloins, do not cut all the way though. Season the inside of the turkey with salt. Stuff breasts with squash mixture. Wrap each breast with bacon slices.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Place turkey in a roasting pan fitted with a wire rack in the bottom. Roast for about 1 hour until meat thermometer reads 170 F. Remove from oven & allow to sit for 20 minutes, covered loosely with foil. Slice & serve.
When I think of stuffed peppers, quiche never ever came to mind. I have always enjoyed quiche anytime of day, with or without crust. The idea of using a pepper as your ‘crust’ certainly puts a new twist on the traditional quiche.
I wanted to make these pepper cups for a supper meal and since there was no pastry involved here, bread sticks seemed like a good accompaniment.
Quiche is like making pizza– there are no limits to what the filling can consist of. For our meal today, I just put together a variety of items I had on hand for both the quiche and bread stick twists. It turned out to be real enjoyable and so easy.
In a skillet, saute mushrooms & onion in butter until tender. Add thyme & salt; cook 1 minute longer or until blended. Remove from heat & cool slightly. Roll pizza dough into a 16 X 8-inch rectangle. Sprinkle cheese on half of the dough, then top cheese with HALF of the mushroom/onion mixture. Fold un-topped half of dough over topped side; slice into 8 strips to form twists.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Carefully lift & twist each strip before placing on baking sheet. Sprinkle with garlic powder & salt to taste. Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Pepper Quiche Cups
In a skillet, place ground pork, water, salt, rubbed sage, black pepper, red pepper flakes & ground ginger. Stir-fry until no longer pink. Remove from heat & drain on paper towel. Chop sun-dried tomato pieces & shred cheese.
In a large measuring cup with a spout, place 1/2 & 1/2 milk, salt & pepper. Add eggs & beat well. Remove stems, seeds & membrane from peppers & stand in a roasting dish that will hold them upright & level. Divide cooked pork, remaining mushroom/onion mixture & sun-dried tomatoes.
Top each pepper with some grated cheddar, then carefully pour in the milk/egg mixture. Bake until eggs are set. If you prefer, 'float' a piece of foil over peppers for the first part of the baking time. It will help the cheese not to over bake.
In Canada, July 1st marks the day for Canadians to show pride in their nations history, culture and achievements. From coast to coast, the country’s birthday is marked with colorful parades, firework displays and singing of the national anthem, O Canada!
This is the date of the historical event in which Canada gained its independence from Great Britain in 1867.
Canada Day has been called a few names in the past. It used to be known as Dominion Day, the First of July, Confederation Day and July the First.
Food and drink are almost as synonymous with Canada Day as the colors of red and white. Barbecues are definitely the preferred choice of food event for the day. For us it will be chicken wings with some tasty little roasted okra fries.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with foil & spray with cooking spray.
In a large, resealable plastic bag, combine oil & spices. Add chicken wings; toss to coat evenly. Place wings on prepared pan & bake for 30-35 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink inside. Remove from oven, wrap in foil to keep warm until served.
Adjust heat to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place okra on baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil & massage into each piece. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes, turning once or twice, until lightly browned & softened.
If you prefer, okra fries can be breaded with cornmeal as well before roasting.
Both chicken wings & okra fries can easily be done on the BBQ if you prefer, rather than turning on the oven.
Kumquats are believed to have originated in China with their earliest historical mention being around the 12th century. Orange in color, this small bite-sized fruit can be eaten skin and all. The peel is the sweetest part of the fruit and the sourness comes from the pulp, seeds and juice.
Unlike it’s citrus kin, kumquats are able to withstand low temperatures and frost. A small evergreen shrub that can also be hydrophytic, which means they can grow in aquatic environments, and the fruits will drift towards the shore during harvest season. Kumquats are in season January thru April.
Commonly cultivated in Asia, the Middle East, parts of Europe and the southern United States. They can be used in every imaginable combination including pies, cookies, smoothies, ice cream, marmalade, marinades, salsa and vinaigrette. My choice today is in a stuffing for chicken breast. The combination of kumquats and orange tastes very unique.
Wash & chop kumquats (do not peel). In a small bowl, combine with walnuts, onion & pepper.
Between two pieces of plastic wrap, pound chicken breasts to an even thickness. Spoon half of the filling on each breast. Fold over to encase filling; secure with picks if necessary. Preheat oven to 350 F.
Set out 3 shallow dishes. In one combine bread crumbs, orange zest & parsley; fill another with orange juice & in third beat the egg with water. Dip each stuffed breast carefully in orange juice, then in bread crumb mixture to coat, then in beaten egg & again in bread crumbs. Place coated breasts, seam side down, on a lightly buttered baking pan. Drizzle with melted butter.
Bake, covered, 30 minutes. Uncover & bake 10 more minutes or until chicken is cooked through.
Italians have been making and eating orecchiette pasta ‘forever’ and the way it is made has changed very little over time. Orecchiette means ‘small ears’, a name derived from the shape. They are a bit less than an inch across, slightly dome-shaped and their centers are thinner than their rims. This characteristic gives them an interesting, variable texture, soft in the middle and somewhat chewier around the edges. A very distinctive type of pasta that originates from the Italian region of Puglia, the southeastern region that forms the high heel on the ‘boot’ of Italy.
Orecchiette require only four ingredients: hard wheat, flour, water and salt. Their particular shape, combined with the rough surface, makes it perfect for any type of sauce. Although they are best in the fresh version, dried certainly are a good second choice.
As ordinary as this meal seems, the flavor is really good and the orecchiette does a great job of cupping the sauce. For a little extra flavor, I added a few bacon slices to the turkey meatballs.
In a saucepan, fry bacon until crisp. Remove, drain on paper towels, & chop finely. In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, bacon crumbles, seasonings, egg & breadcrumbs. Mix & form into 20 balls. Brown meatballs in bacon drippings until cooked through, about 5-6 minutes. Drain on paper towel.
Orecchiette, Vegetables & Sauce
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta & cook as label directs adding broccoli during the last 2 minutes of cooking. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta & broccoli.
Pour off any bacon drippings from skillet, then add 3 Tbsp olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes & 1/2 tsp salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring 1 minute. Add the pasta, broccoli florets & meatballs. Whisk egg with reserved cooking water in a small bowl, then add to the skillet & stir until the sauce thickens slightly. Season with salt & pepper. Serve with fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
I haven’t thought of puffed wheat cake in years. It’s probably been 15 or 20 years since I’ve even made any. So what happened to puffed wheat? I remember this cereal from my childhood, being sold in HUGE plastic bags. It seems that puffed wheat cake (or squares) was a distinctly rural Canadian phenomenon. Nearly anyone from the prairie provinces recalls the recipe from memory. When I looked through my mothers recipe file, she had a recipe for ‘puffed wheat brittle’. This was the forerunner to puffed wheat ‘squares’. It was made using sugar, water, vinegar, molasses, butter & salt.
The Rice Krispie cereal came on the market in North America in 1928. Food history states that similar recipes existed for Puffed Rice & Puffed Wheat but neither used marshmallows, only molasses. Most inventions are built on what has come before and the ‘Rice Krispie Marshmallow Treats’ were no different.
Home economists, Mildred Day and her co-worker, Malitta Jensen, who worked for the Kellogg’s company in 1939 are credited with inventing ‘Rice Krispie Treats’. Originally they had been developed as a snack for an organization called Campfire Girls. They were having a fundraiser and needed something unique that the girls could sell door to door.
In 1940, the original recipe for Kellogg’s Rice Krispie Treats first appeared on the cereal box and continues to do so to this day. In 1995, the company began selling the pre-packaged ones. The fact that they are so quick and easy to make attributes to their continued popularity and of course there are no end to variations you can make from the original recipe.
Here are a couple of ideas you might enjoy to try.
In a large buttered bowl, measure out puffed wheat; set aside. In a saucepan, combine margarine, brown sugar, corn syrup & spices; bring to a boil. Remove from heat & add vanilla. Pour mixture over puffed wheat & stir quickly until completely coated. Pour immediately into prepared buttered pan (size will depend on how thick you like your squares to be) & press down firmly to flatten. When cool, cut into preferred size pieces.
Rice Krispie Treats
Lightly butter a 9 x 13" pan. In a large bowl, measure rice krispies, flax flakes, cranberries, pumpkin seeds & flax seed. In a large saucepan, slowly melt margarine with marshmallows. Remove from heat, add vanilla. Add mixture from bowl & stir quickly to combine well. Pour into buttered pan & press down firmly. When cool, cut into preferred size pieces.
Over the years, our travels have taken Brion and I to many interesting places in the world. Each has left us with amazing memories.
In November of 2009, before Egypt was in such disarray, we explored this ancient country. You could safely say that time has not lessened the mystique of the world’s oldest tourist attraction. No matter how many pictures you look at, or how much you read on the internet, there is just nothing as powerful as seeing the real thing. Brion’s ability to speak fluent Arabic was a huge bonus for us while in Egypt.
The flight from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to Cairo, Egypt was a bit grueling at 16 hours long but we ‘recovered’ fairly fast. To make the most of our vacation, we divided it into four segments; – five days in Cairo, six days in Alexandria, eight days on a Nile River cruise and the last week at Sharm El Shiekh on the Red Sea.
The Nile River cruise was definitely the highlight of the vacation. We boarded the ‘Helio’ cruise ship in Luxor which took us to Aswan and back. Each day the ship would dock at various sites along the way and our personal guide would take us to explore temples, tombs, the high dam and the beautiful botanical gardens at Kitchener Island. It was such an incredible experience viewing the sights and sounds as you slowly sailed along. Travel is a good reality check to make us appreciate what we have in our own lives and so often take for granted.
Every evening, the supper buffet on the ship was created with a different theme. One of the items Brion really enjoyed was ‘EGYPTIAN KOFTA’. Egypt’s local and rich resources of fresh foods coming from the Nile Valley, has given the world some of the most coveted cuisines. Egyptian food is a mixture of all the different civilizations that came to Egypt in the history of its existence.
The word kofta (or kefta) has its origins in Persia. Although you can make meat, seafood or vegetarian kofta, the most popular in Egypt is a mixture of ground beef and lamb combined with onions, garlic, parsley and a ‘BAHARAT’ spice blend.
Along with my recipe today, I thought you may enjoy to look at some of the photos from our Nile River cruise.
Nothing says summer like barbecued ribs — big, bold flavor, finger licking goodness and that fall-off-the-bone texture.
Outdoor cooking is a very popular pastime uniting us with friends, family and of course great food. It seems there is no end to ideas on how to make the best barbecued ribs. I’ve definitely tried my fair share of recipes. One that I found quite unique is for the Korean-style Kalbi ribs.
As in every culture, I’m sure there are many recipes that have been handed down through generations of family members. Korean beef short ribs are cut across the bone (instead of between bones) with 3 bones per slice. The result is a thin strip of meat, about 8-10 inches in length, lined on one side with 1/4 inch thick rib bones. This cut is also known as beef ‘flanken’ ribs.
While in North America, we often braise short ribs for hours in a slow oven, Koreans have a very different approach to cooking this cut of beef. Kalbi is marinated for hours in an Asian inspired marinade and then barbecued for a short amount of time. Kiwi, Asian pears, bottled soda and sugar are all common tenderizing agents used in the marinade for making Kalbi. They are definitely worth a try if you haven’t already.
Using your hands, massage the short ribs with the kiwi puree. Sprinkle each piece evenly with sugar & let sit while you make the marinade.
In a bowl, mix together soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sesame seeds, sesame oil, honey, red pepper powder, pepper & soda. Place the ribs in a single layer in a wide shallow pan & pour the marinade over, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap & marinate in the refrigerator, turning occasionally, for at least 1 hour, or preferably 12 hours.
Preheat barbecue to medium heat with a rack 4-6-inches from heat. Drain ribs from marinade. Reserve marinade for basting, if desired.
Brush the grill rack with oil & grill ribs until they turn caramel brown, 6-8 minutes on each side. Baste with reserved marinade during the first 10 minutes of grilling if you wish.
If you prefer, omit the soda & add more sugar or honey for a little extra sweetness.
Chia — the little seed with the huge nutritional profile. Known as a great source of healthy omega-3 fats and fiber as well as positive health effects such as boosting energy, stabilizing blood sugar, aiding digestion and lowering cholesterol.
In the early eighties, when the terracotta ‘Chia Pet’ figurines were first marketed, I really didn’t pay much attention to them. I just thought they were a cute way to grow a ‘houseplant’ never checking out their true potential.
Chia seeds have a fascinating and long history of use in several cultures. The word chia means ‘strength’ in the Mayan language. The Aztecs, Mayans and Incas, supposedly all used chia as a staple of their diets as well as an energy food.
There seem to be endless ways to use these naturally gluten free little seeds. Just to name a few would be, as an egg substitute, in puddings, as a thickener in soups and gravy, in meatballs, sprouted in salads or for breading fish or chicken.
One of the recipes I have featured in my ebook is Chia Chicken Meatballs served with a fresh zucchini sauce over linguine pasta.
My husband, Brion is all about anything that promotes good health so this meal works for him. The chia seeds definitely give these little chicken meatballs some extra ‘pizzazz’. Hope you enjoy.
In a small bowl, combine chia seeds with water; let stand for about 20 minutes.
In a large bowl, use your hands to evenly combine the chia gel with the remaining meatball ingredients. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with foil; coat lightly with baking spray. Scoop meatball mixture into 50 servings onto baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes; remove from oven. Cool half of the meatballs & freeze for another meal.
Fresh Zucchini Sauce
In a saucepan, melt margarine; saute zucchini & green onion until tender. Sprinkle with flour & seasonings. Add milk/broth & cook, stirring until slightly thickened. Fold in baked chicken balls.
Cook linguine about 14 minutes in salted boiling water to which 1 Tbsp of olive oil has been added. Drain & combine with meatball/sauce mixture.