Pecan Persimmon Sticky Buns

As I mentioned in a previous blog, persimmons are definitely underrated. If you haven’t used them before, now is a good time to give them a try. Where we are, here in Canada, you start seeing them in the grocery stores around October. A bit pricey at first but they get better as the winter rolls along. There are unlimited ways to use them posted on the internet.

The persimmon is Japan’s national fruit. The most commonly found varieties are the ‘Hachiya’, round with a slightly elongated, pointed base and the ‘Fuyu’, smaller and more tomato shaped. When ripe, both have a red-orange skin and flesh, creamy texture and a tangy-sweet, vanilla like flavor.

Today, I’m using a Fuyu persimmon to make some nice little sticky buns. This recipe makes a small amount and tastes amazing.

Pecan Persimmon Sticky Buns
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Servings
5-6
Servings
5-6
Pecan Persimmon Sticky Buns
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Servings
5-6
Servings
5-6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Butter 5 or 6 custard cups. In a small saucepan, melt 2 tbsp butter; add brown sugar. Stir until sugar is melted & begins to bubble. Divide sugar mixture between custard cups. Place a pecan half (upside down) in center of each cup. Place sliced persimmon quarters in a circular fashion on top of sugar & pecan. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a bowl, beat remaining 4 Tbsp butter & granulated sugar until fluffy. Whisk in vanilla, egg & milk until fully blended.
  3. In another bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder & salt. Add to wet ingredients, mixing ONLY until blended. Carefully fold in chopped pecans.
  4. Divide batter between custard cups & bake for 20 minutes. Test with a toothpick. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in custard cups. Invert on serving platter & serve.
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Pumpkin Liqueur Cupcakes with Pepita Oatmeal Topping

Love it or hate it, pumpkin  spice season is well underway. Every year our obsession with the ‘flavor of fall’ continues to grow with weirder, more unique, pumpkin themed products invading the bakeries, grocery stores, coffee shops, you name it—

It all started with the introduction of the famous Starbucks ‘Pumpkin Spice Latte’ in 2003. Strangely enough, as a kid, I wasn’t crazy about pumpkin at all. But that was then, now I’m one of those who loves everything pumpkin.

Some time ago, Brion had picked up a bottle of Pumpkin Cream Liqueur. It has a wonderful taste on its own but of course it only seems fitting that I would want to bake with it.

I believe one of the secrets of having incredible flavors in both savory and baked goods is with the use of alcohol. You can’t help but notice, over the last number of years how the humble little cupcake has been elevated to a whole new level. Many of these specialty cupcake stores that have popped up are featuring alcohol-inspired, adult-friendly options.

Now, today, I’m back to ‘recipe development’ to see what I can come up with.

Pumpkin Liqueur Cupcakes / Pepita Oatmeal Topping
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Pumpkin Liqueur Cupcakes / Pepita Oatmeal Topping
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Servings
12
Servings
12
Ingredients
Cupcakes
Pepita Oatmeal Crumble Topping
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12 cup muffin pan with paper cups.
  2. In a small bowl, combine all topping ingredients & set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt & spices. With a pastry blender, cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. In another bowl, whisk together egg, liqueur, milk & pumpkin puree. Stir into flour mixture JUST until moistened. Place a small scoop of batter in each cup. Divide topping. Using half of topping, divide evenly between cupcakes, creating the 'filling' for the cupcakes. Divide remaining batter between cups; top with remaining topping. Bake 15-20 minutes or until they test done. Remove from pan & cool on a wire rack.
Recipe Notes
  • Technically, pepitas and pumpkin seeds are the same thing. But pepitas (which mean “little seeds of squash” in Spanish) don’t have a shell and are found in only select pumpkin varieties.
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Corned Beef & Cabbage Pizza

CELEBRATING OKTOBERFEST!

Even if it is a little hard to admit summer has ended and fall is officially here, Oktoberfest seems like a great little celebration to ease into the coming winter months.

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.

Beer enthusiasts from all over the world flock to Munich 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..

To acknowledge this holiday we are having a corned beef, cabbage & potato pizza with a rye bread crust. It seems a good mix of German-Canadian food to me ?!

Corned Beef & Cabbage Pizza
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Servings
4-6
Servings
4-6
Corned Beef & Cabbage Pizza
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Servings
4-6
Servings
4-6
Instructions
Rye Pizza Crust
  1. In a bowl, combine flours & salt. Pour 1/2 cup water into a microwave-safe bowl; heat for 30 seconds. Stir brown sugar into water until dissolved; add yeast & stir. Let mixture stand about 10 minutes, until bubbly. Pour yeast mixture into flour mixture. Pour remaining 1 cup of water into microwave-safe bowl; heat for 30 seconds.
  2. Stir olive oil into warm water; pour over flour mixture. Knead flour mixture, adding more all-purpose flour if dough is sticky, until dough is smooth & holds together. Form dough into a ball & place in a buttered bowl. Cover with a tea towel & let rise in a warm place about an hour or until doubled in size.
Fillings
  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Toss thinly sliced potato with 2 Tbsp olive oil in a plastic bag. Combine paprika, rosemary, garlic powder, salt & pepper; add to potato slices & toss again. Roast in a single layer on a baking sheet about 10-15 minutes. In a skillet, add sauerkraut with juice & diced onion. Simmer for a few minutes until onion is tender. Drain well; set aside to cool slightly.
Assembly
  1. Punch down dough. Sprinkle a 14-inch pizza pan with cornmeal & press dough out to fit pan. Top crust with monterey jack cheese, corned beef & onion/sauerkraut mixture. Lay roasted potato slices to cover pizza then sprinkle with mozzarella & Parmesan cheeses. Bake pizza for 12-15 minutes or until golden & crispy. Once pizza is done baking, drizzle with Russian dressing & slice.
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Apple & Apricot Stuffed Pork Chops

CELEBRATING FATHER’S DAY! 

It seems as we get older, reminiscing becomes a part of our lives. It is an that important psychological process called ‘life cycle review’.

Father’s Day,  for Brion and I, is a day that brings back many fond memories. My father passed away in 2005 and Brion’s in 2011. There is never a week that goes by that we don’t reminisce about something we remember about one or the other. Both of our Dad’s loved to talk and tell you stories from their lives. I think back to when I was just a kid and my Dad would recount the same story more than once. At the time, it all seemed a bit boring but now I realize how the benefits of storytelling and review are greatly underestimated. I would give anything to retrace those years once again.

A father’s love and influence is never fully appreciated until he is no longer with you. It is so important to appreciate every hour they are in your life.

My father’s day blog recipe features some pork chops with a nice apple-apricot stuffing. Hope you get a chance to try it sometime.

Apple & Apricot Stuffed Pork Chops
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Apple & Apricot Stuffed Pork Chops
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325 F. Cut a deep, horizontal pocket in each chop.
  2. In a skillet, saute onion & celery in oil until tender crisp. Add bread crumbs, oatmeal, diced apricots, apple, raisins, brown sugar, ginger & 2 Tbsp apricot preserve; mix well. Divide stuffing between pork chops. Place in an ungreased baking dish & cover.
  3. Bake for about 45 minutes; uncover & spread remaining 2 Tbsp preserves on top of chops. Bake uncovered for about 15-20 minutes more or until chops are tender.
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Braised Beef with Stir-Fried Okra

Okra, that seasonal summer vegetable that many love to hate. But, cooked properly it is definitely worth eating. While the origin of okra is often disputed, it grows well in a wide variety of warm climates. It is adaptable to both humid & dry conditions and is largely unaffected by pests and disease.

Okra is a member of the Mallow family, related to cotton, hibiscus and hollyhocks. An upright plant with hibiscus-like flowers gives okra an ornamental value as well.

Probably the most unusual feature that this vegetable has is the gummy, gelatinous substance released from its pods when cooked. The thickening agent makes it a popular ingredient in gumbos and soups. But, there’s much more to okra than soups and stews. Roasting at a high temperature will turn it into crispy, flavorful okra fries.

Since it pairs well with most any meat or seafood, I decided to make some braised beef short ribs with stir-fried okra and Jasmine rice.

Braised Beef with Stir-Fried Okra
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Servings
3-4
Servings
3-4
Braised Beef with Stir-Fried Okra
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Servings
3-4
Servings
3-4
Ingredients
Short Rib Marinade
Servings:
Instructions
Short Ribs
  1. Preheat oven to 300 F. In a Dutch oven, place all short rib ingredients. Bring to a boil, cover & place in oven for at least 1 1/2 hours or until meat is VERY tender. Stir periodically, adding more water if needed. If preferred, skim off excess oil before serving.
Okra
  1. In a large saucepan, add oil; when oil is hot add okra & stir-fry for about 8-10 minutes. Okra should be tender but NOT mushy.
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Persimmon Pork Tenderloin

Persimmons are definitely an underrated fall and winter fruit deserving of the same hype as pumpkins and squash. Mildly sweet and juicy with a slight crunch reminiscent of a cross between a peach and a pear. Persimmons work well in both sweet and savory applications.

The two most commonly available varieties are Fuyu and Hachiyas. Fuyus are squat and round where as Hachiyas are acorn shaped and have a pointed bottom. When buying persimmons, look for unblemished skin with the green leaves and top still attached. The texture should be like a tomato —firm but with a bit of give without being too soft. Persimmons are usually sold unripe, so leave them on the counter for a day or two until the skin deepens to a rich sunset orange. Aside from eating them fresh, persimmons can also be cooked. They make good jams, puree, tarts and cakes as well as used in baking, being poached or caramelized.

If your following my blog, you are well aware of my love for stuffing pork tenderloin. It’s a meal that never disappoints. Today I am using persimmon and Gorgonzola cheese for stuffing and topping it off with caramelized onions and persimmon wedges. The taste is just wonderful!

Persimmon Pork Tenderloin
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Persimmon Pork Tenderloin
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Servings
4
Servings
4
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. & adjust rack to center. In a small bowl, combine rosemary, 1 tsp of thyme, garlic & 1 Tbsp olive oil. Set aside. Slice about 1/2-inch off stem end of each persimmon & about 1/4-inch off bottoms then peel them. Cut one of them into slices, as thinly as possible. Set aside. Cut the second one into approximately 1/2-inch wedges & set aside.
  2. 'Butterfly' tenderloin & gently pound meat, to make it all the same thickness. Spread both sides with oil mixture. On a large piece of plastic wrap, lay the bacon slices on it, layering them by about 1/8-inch along their edges, lengthwise. It should be about the length of the tenderloin.
  3. Cover the butterflied tenderloin with persimmon slices, overlapping to fit. Sprinkle the crumbled Gorgonzola evenly over the slices. Staring with the end closest to you, roll up the pork, as tightly as possible. Once the pork is tightly rolled, with the seam side down, use the plastic wrap to help you wrap the bacon around the outside of it.
  4. Place a rack in a shallow roasting pan & lay a piece of foil on top creating sides for it. Lightly oil center of foil; place tenderloin on it & roast for about 45 minutes or until meat thermometer reaches 160 F. & a hint of pink remains.
  5. While meat is roasting, caramelize sliced onion. In a saucepan, heat oil & add onion. Sprinkle with salt; cook & stir about 10 minutes or until moisture is evaporated & onion is soft. Reduce heat; sprinkle with cider vinegar. Cook & stir until golden. Stir in brown sugar; cook & stir until caramel brown in color. Add persimmon wedges. Gently stir until heated through.
  6. Remove meat from oven. Allow to rest for a few minutes before slicing. Slice tenderloin about 1-inch thickness; place on serving dish & top with caramelized onions & persimmons.
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Caramelized Banana & Mango Crumble

Crumble, a dish of British origin, can be sweet or savory. The sweet variety generally contains stewed fruit with a crumbly topping of butter, flour and sugar. A savory version uses meat, vegetables and sauce for the filling, with cheese replacing sugar in the crumble mix.

Crumbles and crisps are very similar. They both contain fresh fruit with a streusal-like topping. The original difference between the two was in the  topping: crisps would contain oats and crumbles would not. Overtime the lines have blurred and the names crumble and crisp are now used interchangeably.

Oatmeal ‘anything’ is very nostalgic for me. I can’t remember one thing my mother made using oatmeal that I didn’t like, including ‘porridge’. Oatmeal is still as much a staple in our pantry as it was in my mothers.

For this dessert, I thought it would be unique to add a little caramelized twist to an old classic crumble. Caramelization is a chemical change that makes naturally occurring sugars in fruit, when gently sauteed in butter, turn brown and quite flavorful. The combination of caramelized bananas, fresh mango and lemon juice topped with a spicy crumble is wonderful (and easy).

Caramelized Banana & Mango Crumble
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Servings
2-4
Servings
2-4
Caramelized Banana & Mango Crumble
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Servings
2-4
Servings
2-4
Ingredients
Crumble
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. On a parchment lined baking sheet, slice bananas into discs. Sprinkle with 2 Tbsp brown sugar & bake for about 10 minutes or until caramelized. Remove from oven. In a medium bowl, place mango, 1 Tbsp sugar & lemon juice. Mix until combined; add Caramelized bananas & toss gently. Spoon fruit mixture equally into 2 or 4 ramekins.
  2. In a small dish, toss together all of the crumble ingredients, using your fingers to combine. Divide crumble between ramekins. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with either ice cream or whipped cream.
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Fresh Mango Hand Pies

Much of the world refers to ‘hand pies’ as meat pies or pasties  which trace their origins back to at least 19th century England. At that time they were a convenient lunch for the Cornish tin miners. The pastry casing was a good way to keep the filling warm and free from dirt. The miners would hold the edges, eat the filling and discard the dough when they were done.

Various countries tend to differ in their crusts for hand pies. Some are lighter and flakier, like a puff pastry or yeasted almost like bread. Others use margarine rather than butter, which will give a different texture and flavor. We live in a world of portable food so what could be more versatile than a hand pie. Once you have the pastry made, fillings can be any number of choices be it sweet or savory. Make a large batch and freeze them unbaked so you can bake when needed. Here are a few things I have learned over the years that make the process fail proof:

  • Fillings should be soft and moist but not wet otherwise you end up with a soggy crust.
  • Chop veggies and other ingredients into small dice so they cook evenly and quickly.
  • Always par-cook veggies and other filling ingredients so both pastry and filling are finished baking at the same time.
  • Allow filling to cool slightly to room temperature to prevent softening the dough.
  • Don’t be tempted to overfill hand pies and risk bursting at the seams.
  • To strengthen the seal, brush with water or one egg white mixed with one tablespoon of water.
  • For best results, freeze the unbaked hand pies for 20 minutes before baking.
  • You can freeze the unbaked pies for up to three months, then bake right from the freezer giving them 5-10 minutes extra time in the oven.

I never pass up a chance to enjoy mangoes in any form. Hopefully you will get a chance to try these.

Fresh Mango Hand Pies
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Servings
8
Servings
8
Fresh Mango Hand Pies
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Servings
8
Servings
8
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a saucepan, combine mango cubes, brown sugar, cornstarch, cardamom & lemon juice. Heat for a few minutes just to thicken slightly; remove from heat & cool. Roll out pastry & cut 8 -6" circles. Lay pastry circles on parchment lined baking sheet & divide filling between them. Try to keep the filling piled in the center , away from the outer edges. Use a fork to press the pastry layers together around the outside forming a seal. With a sharp knife cut 3 vents in each hand pie.
  3. Whisk together egg yolk & milk; brush over the tops. Sprinkle with pearl sugar & bake for 15 minutes or until golden.
Recipe Notes
  • If you prefer, you can substitute store bought refrigerated pie dough or frozen puff pastry; allow puff pastry to thaw in refrigerator for 2-3 hours before using.
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Sweet & Sour Cabbage Casserole

Stuffed cabbage rolls are a unique blend of various flavors. The art of seasoning is about far more than adding a few grinds of salt and pepper. It’s more about sorting out the sweet, sour, savory and bitterness balance.

Food history tells us cabbage rolls have their roots in the ancient Middle East and spread to Eastern Europe as trade routes flourished with various ethnic groups migrating. Many countries lay claim to their origin, which accounts for the several interesting versions on the traditional recipe. For example:

Ukrainian holubtsi  are typically vegetarian, filling pickled cabbage leaves with either buckwheat and wild mushrooms or a mixture of whole grains and root vegetables, braised in tomato juice or vegetable stock served with perogies.

Poland’s golabki, translating to ‘little pigeon feet'(named after the French dish that wrapped cabbage around cooked pigeon), stuffs the leaves with pork, beef, rice or barley, accompanied by sour cream and sweet paprika.

Romanian sarmale combines ground pork, caramelized onions and rice nested in a pickled sauerkraut leaf, then smothered in dill and tomato sauce. It is often topped with bacon or smoked sausage.

The Asian variation wraps Chinese cabbage around seafood blends, tofu and shiitake mushrooms.

Egyptian mahshi kromb are simmered in an aromatic tomato-based sauce with mint, cumin and other Middle Eastern herbs and spices.

Jewish holishkls are a combination of ground beef, rice and raisins enveloped in cabbage leaves and simmered in a sauce of brown sugar, lemon and tomatoes.

Today’s blog recipe gives you some of those same traditional flavors without the fuss of rolling the cabbage and meat. Brion and I really enjoy this particular version. Of course, it’s a given that most recipes will always need tweaking to account for the different cooking conditions and personal tastes.

Sweet & Sour Cabbage Casserole
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Sweet & Sour Cabbage Casserole
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Servings
6
Servings
6
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Remove 5 large leaves from a head of cabbage; steam until tender. When cool enough to handle, roll up & cut into 1/2" slices; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine beef, cooked rice, minced garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper & 2 Tbsp parsley.
  3. In a large saucepan, heat oil. Cook onion & chopped garlic for a couple of minutes until fragrant but not brown.
  4. Add sugar, lemon juice, tomatoes & pineapple juice; bring to a boil. Add 2 Tbsp parsley & cook for 15 minutes, breaking up tomatoes with spoon. Season with salt & pepper.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 2 L casserole with 1/3 of the cabbage slices. Spread with half of the meat mixture & 1/3 of the sauce. Repeat with cabbage, meat & sauce. Top with remaining cabbage & sauce.
  6. Bake for about 1 1/2 hours until a meat thermometer reads at least 160 F. Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbsp parsley & allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
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Avocado Oatmeal Scones

Most all muffin, scone and cake recipes will work just as well using mashed avocado as a substitute for butter. When they are pureed, avocados take on the texture of softened butter, which makes them easy to incorporate into the batter.

It’s hard not to love using avocados since they are the ‘good kind of fat’. To work out how much avocado you need in a recipe, simply halve the amount of butter  that is called for in the recipe. The calorie difference is huge. For example, 250 grams of butter contains 1750 calories (or more), where as 125 grams of avocado ‘butter’ only adds 200 calories.

Avocados have a mild, fresh, slightly sweet flavor which allows them to pair well with other ingredients. The combination of avocado, oatmeal, cinnamon, dates & walnuts give these scones a unique flavor that gets only better after a day or two.

A while back I noticed that you can buy frozen avocado chunks at the grocery store. They come in a 400 gram bag. What a great idea instead of having to buy them and wait until they ripen. Ready when you need them!

Avocado Oatmeal Scones
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Servings
40
Servings
40
Avocado Oatmeal Scones
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Servings
40
Servings
40
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine oatmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon & salt. In a large bowl, cream together oil, avocado & brown sugar; stir in yogurt & eggs. Add oat mixture to avocado mixture & stir until combine. Fold in dates & walnuts.
  3. Using a scoop, transfer the mixture onto lined baking sheet, spacing scones 2 inches apart. Bake 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
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